tottMs Tan says ToTT began a membership programmme to offer perks and discounts to reward its loyal customers. Photo: Chong Jun Liang

In the second part of a four-week series, three companies tell Aaron Tan how they expanded from humble beginnings to make their mark at home and overseas.

The Sunday Times
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September 13, 2015

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WITH business booming at its Temple Street store, local kitchenware company Sia Huat decided to venture beyond supplying pots and pans to restaurants and hotels.

“The suppliers were encouraging us to increase sales, and as there were no large specialty kitchenware stores in Singapore, we decided to go into the retail business,” says Ms Grace Tan, director of Tools of The Trade (ToTT), the retail arm of Sia Huat that was started five years ago.

ToTT, its flagship store in Dunearn Road, sells a mix of kitchenware, tableware and bakeware from over 100 brands. It also organises cooking classes, birthday parties and corporate team-building events.

The lifestyle concept around cooking and baking seems to be working. In 2010, ToTT contributed just 7 per cent of Sia Huat’s business. That number has more than doubled to 15 per cent today.

In 2012, ToTT received the highest accolade on the global retail stage when it won the Global Innovation Award at the International Home and Housewares Show.

International honour

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“We were honoured to represent Singapore at this Chicago-based show, and to be recognised for our concept, marketing strategy and visual merchandising. In fact, when we first started out, many people didn’t know we are a local brand,” Ms Tan says.

Much of ToTT’s success would not have been possible without the strong support from customers who are passionate about cooking and will often suggest new cookware to bring to Singapore, Ms Tan says.

Spring Singapore had also supported ToTT’s business innovation and brand development efforts through the Capability Development Grant.

To engage and reward its customers better, ToTT has established a membership programme that offers perks and discounts, with some members spending over $800 a year.

During the Great Singapore Sale in July, its membership soared by 60 per cent, thanks to its efforts in digital media marketing. “The sales exceeded our wildest expectations, and there were over 200 shares for that Facebook post,” Ms Tan says.

Sensible choice

Earlier in June this year, ToTT expanded its reach into the city centre to cater to working professionals with a new 4,800 sq ft store at Suntec City that features a compact retail experience and a smaller cooking studio.

“The location at a high traffic mall like Suntec City doesn’t require us to have a children’s play area. We don’t need a bistro either, since there are many food options available in Suntec,” Ms Tan says, adding that the space constraints and high rents make it necessary for ToTT to maximise the layout of its Suntec store.

For now, Sia Huat is set on expanding in the local market with one or two more ToTT stores before venturing overseas. At the same time, it is also devoting more resources to beef up its e-commerce website, and making sure it works well on mobile devices.

“Having an online presence helps us to engage our customers better. “Those who wish to find out more about a product can browse our website first while others can check out the online buying guides and recipes,” says Ms Tan.

For more information on the retail sector and stories on how retailers have built their capabilities, please visit www.spring.gov.sg/retail or email lifestyle_division@spring.gov.sg