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Business Advice

Old shop keeps up to date

Mr Wong Woon Tse relies on providing products that customers want at a reasonable price
The Straits Times - July 28, 2011
By: Jamie Ee
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Old shop keeps up to date -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

IN THE 30 years that Mr Wong Woon Tse has run his stationery business in Bedok Town Centre, he has seen similar stores come and go.

Some were big chains such as Popular Bookstore and Evergreen, while others were smaller mom-and-pop shops like his.

The rent could have been too high to sustain those businesses, said the 75-year-old. Some have also closed down because the owners had nobody to take over after they retired. But Mr Wong's shop, Kian Wee Stationery, has survived, despite going through few cosmetic changes over the years.

He had considered air-conditioning, but felt it would be too much of a hassle as goods would have to be rearranged to accommodate the wiring.

'Most of our customers are regulars and they are used to it,' he said.

'What matters most is that you sell things that customers look for and at a reasonable price, and they will come back.'

As well as the latest stationery, notepads and printer cartridges, the shop stocks harder-to-find items such as account books and self-inking stamps, which some people still buy.

But the business is not without its challenges. For one thing, stationery sales have slowed in the last decade as people rely more on computers for school and work.

To make up for this, Mr Wong began selling household items such as plastic bags and kitchen towels a decade ago to widen his product range and boost sales.

He felt Singaporeans are also spending less now that the cost of living has increased, and profits have shrunk as a result.

Still, Mr Wong believes his is not a sunset industry and he intends to keep his business going. His three sons - Max, 50, Tony, 49, and Choon Nam, 47 - have taken over the running of the shop. They have been working there since they were in their teens.

Asked how long he thinks the business will last, Mr Wong said: 'The future is hard to say. You have to be flexible and sell what people want to buy. That way, you keep the business going.'



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