E-commerce gives new life to business selling old toys
Online statistics portal Statista said Singapore's e-commerce market generated US$2.96 billion (S$4.28 billion) of revenue last year, and could reach US$5.08 billion by 2021. RONALD LOH meets two brothers who used e-commerce to make their hobby a profitable one
When Mr Arnest Ng and his brother, Mr Spencer Ng, were teenagers, they were so into collecting toys that one of them worked as a karaoke disc changer at a pub to finance their hobby.
They collected and filled their bedroom with so many toys that they had to sleep in the living room of their four-room HDB flat.
Eventually, they decided to cash in on their ever-growing prized possessions to fund more toy purchases.
But running a brick-and-mortar shop never took off.
Then, last April, they turned to e-commerce to market their collection of vintage toys and items online.
Today, the brothers' business, Collectors Baze, is booming, raking in about $20,000 in sales a month. Their customers, mostly repeat ones, are mainly between 25 and 40 years old.
Mr Arnest Ng, 39, said: "We were seeing retail businesses shift online and we thought to tag along.
"We are now constantly getting calls from other collectors and customers."
The brothers, who also run a business transporting food packaging, spoke to The New Paper at their office at industrial development Eco-tech @ Sunview in Jurong.
Their two-storey office unit was filled with glass cupboards of vintage collectibles, such as old Transformers robot models, space robots, Ultraman figurines and even Vespa vintage pedal scooters.
Mr Arnest Ng said their toy-collecting hobby started when he was 16 and his brother 12.
He said: "My brother and I used to frequent the flea markets at Clarke Quay and we would buy the toys on sale.
"These were toys we couldn't get when we were even younger because our parents were busy working and we did not enough money then."
Mr Spencer Ng, 35, said they even took up part-time jobs, such as being a waiter and a karaoke disc changer at a pub, so that they had money to buy more toys.
"I earned about $1,000 a month, and I would spend $800 on toys," he said.
They collected so many toys they filled out their bedroom.
Their first foray into selling their toys was in 1994 when they rented a shop for $500 a month in Clarke Quay.
But their business was badly hit in 2003 due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic.
It was in 2012 that the Ng brothers decided to revive their business by featuring their vintage toys at the Singapore Toy Game and Comic Convention.
Mr Arnest Ng said all they had that year was a shelf to feature their toys.
He added: "But the response was amazing. Many wanted to buy our toys, yet we had to turn them down as we did not plan to sell any."
So they rented an exhibition booth the following year to sell their vintage toys, while relaunching their business, this time on social media.
Last April, they launched an online store on their website and a mobile app for iOS and Android.
Their items mostly cost between $150 and $7,000 apiece.
One of their customers is serial entrepreneur Ivan Lee, 41, the founder of restaurant chain Thai Express.
He paid between $15,000 and $20,000 for a Gatchaman figurine set, a first-generation Optimus Prime model and a Voltron robot.
Mr Lee told TNP: "These were toys I once had or couldn't have as my father said they were too expensive when I was a kid.
"They represent more than my childhood. They showcase the history, culture and art of their time. Owning one again is like getting a piece of history."
Mr Arnest Ng added: "With e-commerce, there are no boundaries. We are getting customers from Thailand, the US, Taiwan, and more. What may be available in one country may be rare in another.
"We hope to connect people with pieces of their childhood and that's what keeps us going."