The Five Stars editorial team picked up this note from the internet and decided to send a journalist down to have a look. Here is a field report.
Did you see this on Facebook?
The post claimed that “..because of HDB lift building exercise, his shop was blocked and he mentioned that he was not able to get his regular streams of customers. Due to that he had problems paying rent for the shop for the last 2 month. Oweing HDB almost 5k and power bills up to $1200 (sic).”
I started off the visit on a mission to support the shop with buying some groceries. Indeed if business was plunging because of construction works, I thought we should help to increase the voice of the business owner.
At the shop, a teenager was present. It was a typical household provision shop, sparingly designed and sparsely constructed. There was an almost laissez-faire approach to shop organisation and management.
There was nothing that I really needed as I wasn’t familiar with the brands they carried and I had the general impression that only canned food, dried goods and a wide variety of oils were on sale, nothing else.
“Perhaps what this place needs is some proper organisation and wider product lines”, I thought to myself. Which is true, because if you have nothing that people wanted, you couldn’t sell anything.
I struck up a chat with the teenager who told me that he was only minding the place and his father was not around. Next he handed me a brochure, the contents of which looked like a sex enhancing pill. The teenager was a shrewd salesman, proudly boasting the merits of the pills and getting me to buy a bottle.
As I mused over the decision of whether or not I should buy the pills (not that I needed it, just thought of lending support), a couple walked in. From a printed page in their hands, I could see a copy of the Facebook plea. They too have seen the appeals and thought of dropping by to support the shop. The couple lingered around for a minute and walked out without buying anything.
I too, left. But before heading off, I had a quick chat with another shopkeeper next door. The owner told me that business had indeed been slow. With a total of 5 provision shops (2 in Blk 527 and 3 in Blk 530), competition was intense and many chose to buy from the 3 shops at Blk 530 instead of from him.
Competition is what is really affecting the business. If only there could be some retail professionals that could come and assist the shopkeepers with purchasing strategies, building a larger array of goods and bargain for better economies of scale.
With so much competition, perhaps a fair bit of horse trading would be helpful. No use fighting with the same market for the same products.