May 10, 2009
You will be surprised at the variety of products you can find in such outlets and sometimes at discounts too
By Frankie Chee
When marketing executive James Wong wants to buy books for his two primary school kids, the last place he will head to these days is the bookstore. Instead, the savvy shopper goes to a warehouse.
He makes a beeline for a particular warehouse in Eunos called Shenton Publications, where he has stacks of choices, literally.
The recently opened factory outlet has around 1,000 titles on subjects ranging from health and design to wine, history and politics. And what is more, the books are up to 80 per cent cheaper than those in retail stores.
Mr Wong, 50, is one of many Singaporeans finding that they can buy all sorts of products at warehouses rather than regular shops, from books, soy sauce and meat to potted plants, clothing, plastic containers and furniture.
Not all these big shopping 'boxes' offer items at discounts but they are still a draw because of the wide variety they offer, which shoppers appreciate.
Take musical instruments company Swee Lee. Its warehouse of almost 10,000 sq ft in Sims Drive does not offer exotic prices but its space and variety are enough to make the likes of engineer Ally Harom, 35, shun going to its more centrally located near-8,000 sq ft showroom in Bras Basah.
'It's big and comfortable here, there's more variety and a bigger space,' he says of the Sims Drive warehouse.
Musician Andre Samad, 34, agrees: 'It's not as busy here as the downtown store and there's more space for me to try out the guitars slowly. Also, the salesmen are not as busy, so I can get better service.'
Swee Lee's senior sales manager Alvin Song notes: 'There's free parking, no ERP and more choices. We have so much space that many of the exclusive items are here.'
In book-hunter Mr Wong's case, since discovering Shenton Publications' 400 sq ft warehouse recently, he has made several visits, buying four or five items at a time.
He says: 'It's much cheaper here. In the bookshops the full price of a book is usually between $10 and $20. Here, some are about a dollar or a few dollars, and they are new or almost brand new.'
The prices are so low that they have given Shenton Publications manager Thomas Lim a problem.
'Some people complain and think I am selling pirated books, but these are direct from the publishers and that's why they are so cheap,' he explains.
Also, some of the books are returns from bookstores and are slightly damaged or dented, or old titles.
Office workers from nearby companies visit on weekdays, while churchgoers from a nearby church pop in on weekends.
Over at the Jurong factory of soy sauce maker Tai Hua, consumers swoop in on sauces and canned foods on sale at 'very special prices', says the company's managing director Pek Ee Perh.
'I tell buyers not to compare our prices with those at retail shops because they have their costs and profits to look after, whereas there are no additional costs in my factory,' he adds.
'I want to be able to continue to offer buyers good prices so I ask them to please cooperate, otherwise it will be very hard for me if the shops complain.'
Prices are 10 to 20 per cent cheaper than at retail shops.
Mr Pek says he started selling his products at the factory when people asked to buy them after taking part in the regular factory tours that he offers.
'You must be flexible in business. Some consumers are willing to come all the way here to buy if the items are cheaper. And, because of the distance, when they come, they tend to buy in bigger volumes.'
Other rich pickings for warehouse shoppers include Super Coffeemix products on sale at the manufacturer's Senoko Way warehouse.
However, a spokesman points out that while these products are usually cheaper than those sold at shops, sometimes supermarkets may offer the same items on promotion because they have bought large volumes to enjoy bulk discounts.
Plastic containers are another warehouse offering. Manufacturer Toyogo sells them at wholesale prices at its Toa Payoh warehouse.
However, these containers may not be that much cheaper than those sold at retail outlets, which sometimes do not follow recommended retail prices.
But that has not stopped project engineer Ramesh Avs, 45, and his wife, Sowmya, 40, from being so smitten with the place that they made three trips there from their Ang Mo Kio flat over the past week.
Mr Ramesh, happily clutching a plastic ladder he bought for $15, says: 'The prices here are very much cheaper, by 25 to 30 per cent.
'The quality is good and the price meets my budget so I don't mind spending a few dollars on cab fare.'
Where: 03-06, Block 1085, Eunos Avenue 7A, tel: 6747-0601
Open: Noon to 6pm, Sun to Wed
Nearest MRT station: Paya Lebar
For sale: When completely unpacked, this month-old outlet will have more than 1,000 books on a wide range of subjects. The books go for up to 80 per cent off, with prices as low as $1
Where: 26, Senoko Way, tel: 6753-1809, www.super.com.sg
Open: 9am to 5.30pm, Mon to Fri
Nearest MRT station: Sembawang
For sale: All the manufacturer's products. As a price indication, it sells its non-dairy creamer for $1.30 ($1.90 at NTUC FairPrice) and 2-in-1 Kopi-O for $3.50 ($4.20 at FairPrice) for a 30-sachet pack. The price of its instant cereal matches FairPrice's $3 for a bag of 20 packets.
Where: 02-00, 150 Sims Drive, tel: 6846-3610, www.sweelee.com.sg
Open: 10am to 7pm, Mon to Sat
Nearest MRT station: Aljunied
For sale: Musical instruments and sound systems. Prices are the same as those at its Bras Basah showroom but the warehouse has a jam studio and a room displaying speaker sets. Parking is free.
Where: 12, Jalan Besut, tel: 6265-9911, www.taihua.biz
Open: 10am to 4pm, Mon to Fri
Nearest MRT station: Lakeside
For sale: Known for its soy sauce, Tai Hua is also a distributor of canned food such as longan and pineapple. Wholesale prices are 10 to 20 per cent lower than those in retail shops.
Tee Yih Jia
Where: 1, Senoko Road, tel: 6880-9899, www.tyjfood.com
Open: 8am to 5pm, Mon to Fri
Nearest MRT station: Sembawang
For sale: Pastry skins, roti prata and glutinous rice balls. Prices are 10 to 30 per cent lower. Roti prata sells for $1.82 ($2.45 at retail stores) while pastry skin is $2 ($2.50 at retail stores).
Where: 01-1207, Block 11, Toa Payoh Industrial Park, Lorong 8, tel: 6251-8747, www.toyogogroup.com
Open: 10am to 7pm daily
Nearest MRT station: Toa Payoh
For sale: A huge variety of plastic items including a three-piece set of microwave and freezer-safe containers for $3.90 and a 7-litre ice cooler box for $15.