From online to brick-and-mortar

Touch and feel: Husam says customers still prefer to make in-store purchases.

Touch and feel: Husam says customers still prefer to make in-store purchases.

Plans are also afoot to expand retail stores overseas

ENGKU Isa Al-Husam has finally decided that he can’t go without a physical store. After running his online retail business, Foodmarket, for two years, he recently launched the first Foodmarket store in Bandar Sri Permaisuri, Cheras.

“People still want to shop in a physical store as they want to see, touch and try out whatever we have to offer. So now I use the Foodmarket portal to drive more people to the shop,” says 35-year-old Husam, as he is fondly known.

“The online retail business has become a bit crowded of late. Our main focus is on the Klang Valley customers. I also realised the online business trend is not so attractive anymore. As far as Foodmarket is concerned, selling from the shop is the real deal now,” adds Husam.

Foodmarket, owned by Husam Waksa Sdn Bhd, is a supermarket of sorts specialising in local food offerings and ready-to-eat stuff. It first came online in April 2015.

Foodmarket sells a variety of sambals, cooking pastes, exotic local food, frozen food, snacks and traditional delicacies from petai, pekasam, belacan, cincalok and salted fish.

Over the past two years, Husam notes that 70% of its total sales comes from offline transactions such as pop-up stores and special projects like hampers. Additionally, most of their customers prefer to go to their office to make purchases.

Doing well: Sales at Foodmarket’s outlet in Cheras has surpassed those of its online store.
Doing well: Sales at Foodmarket’s outlet in Cheras has surpassed those of its online store.

This, he says, certainly warrants a physical store.

“We used to have more than 1,000 SKUs (stock keeping unit) online, but after two years, we realised that only 5% of the items really sell online. On the other hand, the food products, which did not sell well online, are popular during our pop-up store rounds in various shopping malls. This is because the visuals we see online can be different when we see or touch it in reality,” Husam explains.

In fact, says Husam, sales from the shop now contribute a lot higher to its revenue than the online store. Foodmarket also gets less orders from the Klang Valley because customers prefer to visit the shop.

“Our online orders come mainly from Brunei,” he says.

Husam has invested some RM300,000 to set up the Foodmarket store.

Having a physical store is also a solution for its limitation on storing frozen products.

“We can’t do it for our products on the online platform because the management of postage delivery does not permit that,” Husam says, noting that it can now leverage on storage space at its store.

That said, the online business still plays an important role for Foodmarket. Husam hopes the boost in sales at the physical store would also help drive its online traffic.

On the shelf: These are just some of the local offerings available at the Foodmarket store.
On the shelf: These are just some of the local offerings available at the Foodmarket store.

“Our online store is running as usual and it will soon have a new look and an app for smartphone buyers so that our loyal customers will have a better experience compared to the web page. We hope to give our online portal a new face lift as we believe the online portal is still relevant,” he adds.

Foodmarket currently carries more than 500 products. They have another warehouse in Port Klang to store products for export to countries such as Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, London, Amsterdam, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Oman.

Foodmarket is also in the midst of revamping its products listing. Their best-sellers to date are the premium-fried shallot, Sambal Pahang DiRaja, Sambal Hijau by Malay Cook, Salla Sambal Tempoyak, Zaty’s Sambal Hitam Nenas, Mutiara Figs, Salted Egg Chips, and unique traditional chips like Kerepek Kesom, Kerepek Kunyit, Sate Ikan from Pangkor and kuih siput.

“We can count on social media to promote Foodmarket. We have 16,000 followers on facebook who are our real supporters and customers,” he says.

“Our stock keeping standard-operating-procedure is even better now that we don’t need to have our stock kept in the warehouse and everything is more efficient. Since we have limited space, we are utilising every square feet here. We plan to create small cafes and shops eventually, like those you find in Brighton, UK and the pavement cafes along the popular streets in Paris,” says Husam.

He hopes that Foodmarket’s products will be part of Malaysians’ daily lifestyle. He will soon introduce puding raja from Pekan, pau, dim sum, cakes and artisan ready-to-drink coffee to his offerings.

“Hopefully, when you think of sambal in any form or any authentic Malaysian food products, you will think of Foodmarket. We are finalising our franchising concept now and plan to have a second branch in Kota Bharu in a special collaboration. This will be our next project after we stabilise the operations of this shop,” he says.

Husam welcomes any potential investors to grow the business into a bigger chain.

“We believe that Foodmarket has a strong branding, good commercial value and bright prospects in terms of business module and good returns too. We want to increase our portfolio and sell off some shares to potential investors. Our brand is strong and we have been a strong supporter of SMEs and the cottage industry in Malaysia. We’ll also have merchandise and collectable items and kitchenware in the shop before the year ends,” he says.

Besides Foodmarket, this enterprising businessman has also opened up Kedai Asia in Mecca and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia last year. Kedai Asia offers more than 300 types of Malaysian food and beverage products from popular local brands such as Adabi, Yeo’s, Kipas Udang, Boh Tea, Life as well as Malay authentic products including budu, tempoyak, cincalok, pekasam and belacan.

“Our Kedai Asia concept stores have benefited more than 50 Malaysian companies with over 500 SKUs. Currently, 135 SKUs are Muslim products from medium- and micro-industries from all over Malaysia. We hope to promote more Halal Malaysian products to the world through our Kedai Asia,” he says.

Husam first initiated the concept for Kedai Asia in 2011. He started by supplying and distributing Malaysian food products to hypermarkets in the Middle East, and based on the positive response, he decided to set up Kedai Asia last November. The initial investment to set up the store was more than RM1.2mil.

By early 2018, Kedai Asia will have at least nine branches. The next branch will be in Kaust city. Husam is in the midst of negotiating for an outlet in Makkah near the al Haram Mosque.

“If everything goes as planned, I will travel to Saudi for a few months to focus on stocking food products from Kelantan in the Kedai Asia. Our unique concept is what sets us apart from others in the market,” he says.

Foodmarket new store