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Tuesday December 25, 2012
By KARINA FOO firstname.lastname@example.org Pictures by IZZRAFIQ ALIAS, LIM CHENG KIAT, RAYMOND OOI and KARINA FOO
IT’S Christmas day, a day of the season to be jolly as many from all over the world dress in their best to celebrate with family and friends.
People will see everything from neighbourhood toy shops to bigger shopping centres fully decked with new products and highlighted with colourful and enchanting decorations trying to lure the young and the young at heart in.
While Santa dashes through the snow in his one horse open sleigh, eager shoppers have spent the last few days leading to Christmas dashing through the malls and shops to buy presents.
In the United Kingdom, market research firm NPD Group estimates that last minute shopping in the last three weeks of December may generate about £400mil (RM1.97bil).
Closer to home, market researcher Euromonitor International has reported that Asia will add some US$7.2bil (RM22bil) to global toy sales over the next five years.
But others speculate that year-end retail spending in general has decelerated compared to previous years. Some economists credit this to an uncertain economy and the rising popularity of online shopping that offers convenience and competitive prices for an unlimited selection of products.
Despite these testing times, local proprietors of small toy shops and bigger retailers will continue to make the most out of the 12 days of Christmas. Small-timers versus
Yukie’s Toys, a toy-store in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, is a popular shop with children. It features a range of toys and video game consoles that can make even adults want to revisit their childhood days. Its owner K. K. Goh, has been looking forward to this holiday period because it usually means more business for him.
While excited children pull their parents into the store, pleading for the coolest Ben 10 toy or prettiest doll on display, Goh admits that this usually only happens during weekends.
“As much as Christmas has always brought about an increase in our sales, it’s been significantly lower over the last two years because of new technology like smartphone gaming, and the presence of bigger and better toy retailers out there,” said Goh.
The family man whose wife, Josephine Loo and operations manager, Alex Cheah, help manage the store, has been involved in the industry since the 1980s when he assisted his uncle in running a small video games kiosk in another neighbourhood toy shop.
“After that shop closed down, our kiosk could no longer operate, but I wanted to continue to market video games as well as toys. So in 2001, I went to research the ideal location to set up a store, and although it was still too early to be sure, I knew Amcorp Mall would be suitable. Our business thrives mostly on weekends because of the stalls outside and many families like to shop here,” said Goh.
But according to him, the bigger picture shows that traditional toys appear to be suffering a drop in popularity as children from as young as of three, are being lured away by smartphone and tablet-based video games.
On a more positive note, products for infants seem to be selling better than most of the toys.
Yet, it appears to be a different story for Hewsonix Store (Hewson), a traditional mom-and-pop shop in Old Town, Petaling Jaya, as every single item sells like hot cakes even on weekdays.
Stepping into the shop is like opening a magical treasure box as everything from toys, stationery, stickers and a bevy of Christmas decorations are stacked from floor to ceiling.
The colours of the items are fantastic and giddying as every nook, cranny and corner is stuffed with products placed to sell, and sell fast they do, according to Hewson’s owner, Ben Hew.
“We have pretty good business all year round, but it gets real busy and a little out of control during major festivities.
“We can usually sell about 80% of the Christmas items we have and store some of them for next Christmas. The business has a high turnover in goods and it moves fast as we’re now in the midst of doing our orders for Chinese New Year next year,” said Hew.
Hewson was incorporated as a little outlet in the same shop house by Ben’s father, Hew See Keong and Ben took over the business in the early 1990s. Since then, the shop has expanded to two stories of space measuring 22ft by 18ft for each level.
Meanwhile, Yukie’s Toys generates just above RM50,000 in revenue per year, but that alone isn’t enough to cover costs.
“Our profit margins are very low because we’re facing stiff competition from online retailers.
“Customers are discerning and will compare the prices of products so we have to keep our prices as low as possible, but that has a direct effect on the profitability of our business,” explained Goh, adding that he isn’t sure whether the business will be sustainable in the future.
On the other hand, Hew faces a different predicament.
“We have to deal with a high volume of customers who visit the shop daily. Because of this, keeping tabs on inventory is a bit of a headache but we’re trying to manage it,” explained Hew.
Christmas at the malls
Two major family shopping centres in the Klang Valley, 1 Utama and Setia City Mall, have certainly decked their halls with boughs of holly, Christmas trees and colourful embellishments to ignite the festive spirit up until the new year.
Although only in its seventh month of operations, Setia City Mall is in Yuletide cheer with its 10m Christmas tree that’s surrounded by eight kiosks shaped like giant Christmas gifts.
The mall receives an average of 800,000 visitors a month and is anticipating the number to increase significantly during Christmas up until Chinese New Year next year. Customer spending is expected to increase during this time due to festive buying and year-end sales.
“For the children, Santa and Santarina will be roaming the mall and giving out goodies today.
There will also be a Miss Santarina Pageant today where one little princess will be crowned Miss Santarina,” said Setia City Mall general manager Phillippa Holmes.
In 1Utama, there will also be an influx of shoppers who come not only to shop, but to eat and hang out, so the mall hopes to capitalise on that.
“Christmas has always been the busiest season for 1 Utama as it coincides with the year-end sales and school holidays. Retail sales are always on the rise in December as the on-going promotions and sales encourage visitors to shop more as people generally look for bargains,” said the mall’s public relations manager, Lee Li Lian.
With plenty of activities lined up for this month, sales are largely driven by children considering that the mall will generally highlight its vast options for presents and toys for the young ones.
“Kids also yield considerable influence when it comes to family purchasing decisions, and this is largely reflected in the number of child-related tenants in 1 Utama,” explained Lee.
While the spirit of celebrating, buying and giving has certainly brought joy to many business owners, they will continue to envisage and materialise new concepts, marketing tools and products to increase their customer traffic all year round.
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