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Tuesday February 5, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday April 20, 2013 MYT 3:42:21 PM
by karina foo
AS THE tunes of Chinese New Year songs galvanise the lunar spirit of many, businesses are also enjoying this prosperous season of burgeoning sales.
The bustling buying activity is a usual affair as many small enterprises trade in the market of enthusiastic shoppers purchasing their festive goods.
Aside from proprietors selling food and Chinese New Year decorations, others who thrive during the season are clothing and accessories retailers.
One such business is Square Room, a lifestyle and fashion outfit that foresees at least a 30% increase
in sales this lunar new year
Veering away from traditional cheongsam and samfoo, the retailer is going red with conventional apparel as well as home accessories and plants to usher in good luck.
“While red clothes are popular now, it is the plants that have always doubled in sales so obviously, we will leverage on that,” explained Square Room’s owner and founder, Lim Chai Wei.
Square Room takes a well-rounded approach to business as it takes the space of about three to four regular-sized boutiques as well as the space outside its outlet. This makes every space under Square Room measure up to an average of 6,000 sq ft and the company uses it to house a number of kiosks that are managed by different vendors who collectively sell almost an unli-mited variety of products.
“While we run the business as a retail operation, we are also business consultants for young entrepreneurs to start their own clothing and accessories business.
“We do this by sub-leasing the space within the shopping mall that we already rent and help start-ups by providing their fixtures, signage, interiors (if necessary), visual merchandising right up to how they can price their products.
“Because we understand that renting can be expensive, these businesses are able to rent from us at a cost that is within their budgets and it gives them the opportunity to operate within a shopping mall,” explains Lim, who is also the founder of Mori Pin, another boutique with branches in Bangsar Shopping Centre, Bangsar Village and Great Eastern Mall.
Lim and her husband, Steven, conceived this idea for a business almost a decade ago and opened the first Square Room outlet and space at Hartamas Shopping Centre in 2005.
They are located on the top floor of the centre and have a children’s store under the same name operating on the ground floor.
Their two other outlets are in Bangsar Shopping Centre and Paradigm Mall.
Together with the space in Hartamas, Square Room spans a total of 13,800 sq ft for all three establishments. At the moment, they have more than 40 vendors operating under Square Room to market their own products.
With its unique business operation, 30% of the products are acquired by Lim while 70% are sold by her vendors, hence the diverse array of clothes and designs.
“Every entrepreneur or potential vendor who wants to be part of our company goes through an interview process to ensure that they are suitable to operate the business and are in-sync with the reality of the retail market. If they fit the bill, we will take them through the start-up process,” explained Lim.
Meanwhile, Square Room also provides space and their services to some of the clothing retailers in the Jaya 33 bazaar and the Square Market at One Mont Kiara.
Proud of their offerings of traditional Chinese ladies wear, two small-time retailers, Secret Garden and Shanghai Silk seem to be favourite clothing destinations for shoppers during this time of the year.
But according to Secret Garden’s sole proprietor and founder, Alenna Soo, it seems that turnover for this year is lagging compared to previous years.
“Throughout the eight years of operating in Hartamas Shopping Centre, this year has been the slowest.
“Maybe it is because people are spending less or may not want to buy new clothing for the season or because there is a lot of competition around,” said Soo, a former stewardess.
Notwithstanding the slower turnover, this is the first time Soo has brought in premium-designed cheongsam from Hong Kong, whereas in 2012 and the years before, she featured non-traditional selections.
The story is different for Shanghai Silk, a business that was started and is being operated by Mei Yee together with her friends. It features various types of cheongsam, samfoo and silk motif material made from a mixture of Thai Silk and Indian Rayon.
“We get in more than 500 items of clothing and manage to sell half every Chinese New Year.
“From customer feedback, they like the idea that our clothes are all custom-designed and hand-made in Shanghai by our tailor so every piece is unique and full of colour,” explained May Yee, also a former stewardess.
Her top pieces are priced from RM200 (pure silk) and RM199 (satin), dresses start from RM180 and can go up to RM900 while other accessories like table runners range between RM100 and RM300.
For Soo, what keeps customers coming back is the personalised shopping service she offers to them.
“Some customers may not have enough time to shop and find exactly what they want, but they can get it here since I have become familiar with their tastes and preferences.
“So, they will just call and give me a brief breakdown of what they need and I get a few clothing pieces in time for them to come in, try and buy,” she said, adding that she also alters most of the clothing for a better fit.
After travelling the world during her cabin crew days, she saw that certain brands have always led the pack in the fashion industry.
“So, the other clothes sold here are from Dolce and Gabbana (D&G), Karen Miller, Mark Jacobs, Ted Baker and Banana Republic.
“Of course they are higher in price because they are branded but there are customers who have the means to buy them,” says Soo.
Unlike Secret Garden, which is a permanent outlet, Shanghai Silk operates as a kiosk in Bangsar Village only during Chinese New Year but up to four months before The Day itself, Mei Yee travels to Shanghai to scout for the materials and make her tailoring orders.
“While this might sound a little odd, I can sustain the business because I am not looking at becoming a millionaire doing this as it is obviously not possible, but it is my passion and hobby,” says Mei Yee.
Shanghai Silk’s kiosks, along with other Chinese New Year product vendors, will be operating at the ground floor of Bangsar Village 1 until Friday.
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