Spotlight  


THINKING PEOPLE’S
FURNITURE - PICKET&RAIL

Headquartered at Upper Thomson, Singapore, Picket&Rail is a leading furniture retailer that has gained a good reputation in a tough market. The company had been operating for more than a decade since its beginning in year 2003, 13 years to be precise. FFE talks to Faisal Alsagoff, the CEO of the company about his business and market.


City Square Mall Store

Inside the Kaki Bukit Outlet

Tagore Showroom

Serving exclusively Singapore’s retail and commercial markets, Picket&Rail is small medium sized furniture retailer with strong capabilities and big ambition. Currently, it has over 50 employees, a 100,000 square feet warehouse, and a couple of satellite stores around the island. For its home furniture business, Picket&Rail is proud to have furnished more than 250,000 homes to-date.

Proud to be known as a supplier of premium quality furniture and provider of excellent service, Picket&Rail first made their name as supplier of premium American-inspired solid wood furniture. While still recognized as a supplier of fine solid wood furniture, the store’s current portfolio of product offering also includes modern classics - award winning designs that have withstood the test of time.

MANAGEMENT



Faisal Alsagoff, CEO, Picke&Rail
At the helm of Picket&Rail is Faisal Alsagoff, the company’s Chief Executive Officer. An engineer by training, he listed an IT company he founded on the Singapore Exchange almost 20 years ago. A newbie to the furniture business when he first took on the role, he put himself through the paces by visiting suppliers and factories, going down to the shop floors serving customers to better understand their requirements. Short of trying to make the furniture himself, the deliberate effort to understand the important aspects of the business paid off. It gave him a strong appreciation of the furniture market and retailing. Alsagoff now manages the business with the support of a management team to grow the Picket&Rail businesses, setting targets and meeting them.

A mid to high-end furniture retailer, the company’s focus is always customer-oriented. The management studies the rapid changes in the market and needs of customers before determining a strategy. With a crowded mid-tier market now fill with many retailers, Picket&Rail is constantly evolving to stay relevant and competitive. In addition to moving upmarket, the company has also expanded its portfolio bringing in international brands to the local market. Overall the various categories of furniture products that Picket&Rail carries include traditional “shaker-styled” solid wood furniture including beds, dining sets, wood-frame sofas, fabric sofas, leather sofas, wooden casegoods, and accessories such as ceramic dinner wares, bed covers/duvet, pillows, lightings, etc. They come under the three main brands the company carries, which are: Picket&Rail “Originals”, KUKA and Norya.



MARKETING



For its retail business, Picket&Rail’s targeted demographics are adults between 24-65 years of age. Focus is placed on newly-weds and new home owners. As consumers get more discerning and better educated, this puts Picket&Rail in an advantageous position with its offering of trendy designs and premium quality. However, buying behavior can be erratic and differs from year to year, according to Alsagoff. To address this, much emphasis is placed steering its entire operations towards customer-centric orientation. Studies are conducted with resulting strategies planned around the needs and preferences of the customers.

As a land-scarce country, space is a precious commodity in Singapore. Despite extensive land reclamation and having grown some 23% since the exercise began several decades ago, the world’s only island city-state is a mere 720 square kilometres. The country is home to around 5.54 million people. Naturally, land prices in this highly urbanized country are high. Thus the need for retailers to strategise cautiously their market presence.

For Picket&Rail, the strategy is to have the right number of showrooms, right sizes at the right locations. The store locations would target consumers living in the North, East and West of Singapore where population is dense. Each of its stores would features a distinct brand focus and it is important that not all stores are the same. The store floor areas are set up by furniture categories to allow better focus for consumers as well as the salesperson when they guide and assist the customers.

As a result of this, Picket&Rail has 4 main stores located across Singapore namely Tagore, Kaki Bukit, City Square Mall & IMM Mall with only the latter two store located in shopping malls. Not only does each of the locations service different regions of Singapore, the various stores each carry a distinct range of products and brands.

For example, the City Square Mall store houses the Picket&Rail All-Wood flagship store while the Kaki Bukit location is its KUKA Flagship Store. KUKA is a large Chinese upholstery brand currently enjoying global success with its contemporary designs and high quality. The Tagore showroom on the other hand serves as a flagship store for NORYA, another large and successful Chinese brand with minimalistic designs. The IMM shop is positioned as a Picket&Rail mini outlet, aligned with the mall’s positioning as Singapore’s largest outlet mall.

In addition to brick and mortar stores, Picket&Rail is also an online store. With Alsagoff’s strong background in IT, Alsagoff capitalized on his immense knowledge and made PicketandRail one of the first Online-Offline (O2O) furniture companies in Singapore. To further the company’s reach in the market, Inkagu.com, a new e-commerce shopping platform was launched. This portal serves customers with budget constraints.

Although recognised for its premium quality product offerings, the company does not just rely on word-of-mouth referrals for business. Alsagoff shared that brand building and brand exposure is critical in the competitive landscape. In this regard the company invests heavily in marketing, especially on the internet and social media. Marketing promotion activities are organized regularly. Advertisements are ran weekly and bi-weekly depending on the campaigns. Efforts are made to ensure the content of each are geared to strengthen the market positioning of the respective brands and stores. In addition to promoting Picket&Rail and brands under its umbrella, many of the advertisements are also salescentric. His mandate to the marketing team is to be crystal-clear with the objectives of its campaigns and they are to be reflected in the resulting advertisements. The selection of channels and media are on the basis that they serve the right target audience.

Sharing a little more regarding the current product styles and design popular with his customers, Alsagoff revealed that modern and functional designs are what draws them. In addition, there is also a trend towards customizable designs.



SOURCING



Although maximum profit is generated with the highest selling price against lowest costs, the Picket&Rail success formula is providing premium quality at the right price. To achieve this, the company sources from around the region searching for the best products (in terms of design and quality) from the right factories. It is not surprising to see Alsagoff leading his sourcing team on the regular sourcing trips.

How does the company find products that are suitable and the factories that produce them? Like most other sizeable retailers in Singapore, the Picket&Rail sourcing team visits many of the furniture fairs in the region, many of which are held in China, to pre-select designs. Visits are made subsequently to the factories identified to qualify each of them. These trips are ever so frequent with the Picket&Rail team.

To succeed in a relatively small but highly competitive market, Alsagoff divulge that variety in product is vital and to achieve this, Picket&Rail has to work with suppliers who accept low MOQ (minimum order quantity). Ideally then multiple suppliers are located within closely proximity to one another for better consolidation and shipping. Most importantly however, the quality of products must be good. For new potential partner-factories, it helps in the selection process if they enjoy a good reputation with positive track record.

In addition to Chinese suppliers which Alsagoff credits for their competitive pricing, diversity of product styles, reliability quality and stock availability, the company also works with several Malaysian factories. For the Malaysian manufacturers, their core strengths are the solid wood products, predominantly rubber-wood, which is much aligned with the Picket&Rail’s “All Solid Wood” branding.

OUTLOOK AND GOALS



It is Alsagoff’s long term goal to have Picket&Rail continue its reign as the leading premium solid wood furniture retailer in the country. While keeping at it, the company is also embarking on an ambitious plan towards becoming a leading leather upholstery retailer as well as a retailer of customizable furniture, both of which Alsagoff appears highly confident of achieving. The brand is fast gaining grounds in the former while for the latter it has rolled out extensive programs.

Despite the slowing retail market in Singapore at present and forseeing an inevitable price war between local retailers due to that, Picket&Rail will persevere in its strategies and efforts. “We will stay true to our mission. We have been keeping to our values and working to best serve our customers. This has given us a very good name in the market… A strong branding and superior value impression is crucial in such a competitive market and these help add positively to the premium quality identity the Picket&Rail name already stands for. This will put us in a good position against our competitors especially during tough times.” Alsagoff emphasized.