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  that have been fine-tuned to cater to the students’ preferences at competitive prices.
In January 2018, POPULAR conducted a career talk at SMU to engage students interested in embarking on a career in the retail industry. Recognising that the grooming of the next generation of retail talent is part of the effort to develop an ecosystem of innovation and knowledge sharing, the SMU Management Associate Programme was introduced as part of POPULAR’s talent acquisition and retention strategy to drive future growth. Through this programme, the management associates will be assigned job rotations where they will have the opportunity to gain in-depth interdepartmental knowledge that will equip them with skill sets that are vital for making strategic business decisions. In a nutshell, the Management Associate Programme aims to groom future leaders whilst sharpening their leadership skills to maintain POPULAR’s dominance in the future retail landscape.
The Teacher who Learns from the Students
As one of the largest home-grown bookstores in the retail industry, POPULAR
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offers vast opportunities for students to gain interdisciplinary knowledge and experience across retail, marketing, operation management, information systems and data analytics. Meanwhile, the SMU– POPULAR Retail Research Laboratory serves as the perfect testing ground for research observations and real-time application of the theories taught in the classroom. Being a member of the RCoE gives the students an avenue to conduct their research and gain exposure to POPULAR’s retail know- how, that will aid them in the application of classroom methodologies and theories.
At the SMU–POPULAR Retail Research Laboratory, students are also exposed to the real-life challenges that the retail sector faces in what many are increasingly considering to be the next backwater industry. The research done by the students has also offered insights and new perspectives on the retail business of the SMU store, further highlighting the benefits of its proximity to a tertiary education institution. The students also displayed full competence in tackling real life business challenges, whilst thoroughly immersing themselves in the retail operations and proposing suggestions to further improve the process.
A key aspect of the “work culture” in the SMU–POPULAR Retail Research Laboratory is that the students are encouraged to share their ideas freely, a scenario which may be perceived as “mission impossible” within a rigid corporate environment. Setting up the SMU–POPULAR Retail Research Laboratory has proven to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. As a member of RCoE, POPULAR has much to gain with the students’ new ideas and perspectives sparking off novel means of tackling the challenges that the retail industry is facing currently.
Being a Part of Students’ Lives
The SMU–POPULAR Retail Research Laboratory is the epitome of POPULAR’s dedication and commitment to promote in-depth experiential learning. However, POPULAR went a step further to play an active role of being a part of the students’ campus life. Take the example of POPULAR’s participation in the SMU Patron’s Day, SMU’s annual birthday celebration. The grandest edition ever, SMU Patron’s Day 2020 was held on 17 January 2020, celebrating SMU’s 20th birthday. Featuring several SMU student start-ups among other more established brands, the SMU Patron’s Day market was

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