Merchant of the Month: January 2015

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
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Merchant of the Month: January 2015

RayLite Optical

 

Owner: Mr Tan Yong Khoon, Jimmy, 58 years old.

 

Owner Profile: Mr Tan, known to most as “Jimmy”, has over 40 years of experience in opticiantry. His first shop was at Bedok Centre, from 1980 till 1985. He then moved his business to Tampines N2, and was one of the first shops along his row of shops. Times were hard in the early years, and Jimmy had to sell CDs in his shop as well, to get more people flow. The shop would also go down to offices to give eyesight checkups as well as give optical advice and recommendations. “We did not make any profit in the first 3 years”, said Jimmy.

Jimmy believes in a proactive lifestyle. His hobbies include gold and karaoke, and he does them weekly. He loves meeting and conversing with new people, and that is how he conducts his business. Customers turn into friends, and as such, he has many long serving customers till this day.

 

Shop Profile: RayLite Optical is located at Tampines N2 Block 201D. It is opened from 10.30am to 9.30pm, 7 days a week. The shop sells all kind of spectacle frames, ranging from the most affordable $88, to the special designer brands costing a few thousand dollars.

 

 

Q&A:

 

Looking back, what are some of the changes that has happened over the past few decades in the optical market?

One thing that pops into my head immediately is the Bifocals. When it first came out the Asian market wasn’t really picking up as fast as the rest of the world. At that time, most bifocals were imported from Europe and the US.  The issue with that is, most of the bifocals were designed to fit Caucasian or Europeans, whose bridges are naturally higher. The bifocals were not suitable for Asians. Because of the difference in bridge height, the lens to eye distance will be affected. This was a major issue when bifocals first came to Asia.

 

Moving forward, what do you think is the future for the Optical market, and also for your shop?

Right now competition is fierce. There are 8 optical shops in Tampines N2 in total. And competition will continue to get tougher. Nowadays there are so many more new brands, new designs, new patterns, customers have such a wide range to select from. The optical market also follows trend. For example, the current trend is plastic specs. They are thin, light, and durable. They also come in many colors. As for my shop, my second son has expressed an interest in taking over the business. If everything works out, I will hand my shop over to his capable hands.

 

Do you have any advice for people going into the Optical business?

When my customers come in, I always ask them four important questions.

Firstly, what will you use the specs for? Is it for reading, or driving? Is it for sports? The activity will affect the type of specs. A specs for sports will need to be light, but durable. A reading specs would be a near-sighted one.

Secondly, what is the budget? The customers budget would greatly affect the type or brand of specs they can go for.

Lastly, do they have any brand in mind? Some customers come into the shop already with a brand or a design in mind. That would make it easier to get them what they want.

This leads me into my advice for people going into the optical business. Experience is very essential. By asking the questions above I can make my own recommendations or suggestions. All these comes with experience. I know what would work, and what would not. When a customer comes into your shop with a problem, your job is to solve it as soon as possible. My many years of experience helps me to pinpoint the root of their problems just by listening to them explain the issue.

Another valuable piece of advice is, Relationship is the best marketing strategy for the optical business. People do not change spectacles very often. It is not a fast moving good or service. That is why we have to build lasting relationships with our customers, so that they will come back in a years time, or two years time, to make their next pair of spectacles. I have many returning customers over the years.

 

Do you have any hobbies? What do you do on your free time?

My two biggest hobbies are Golf and Karaoke. I will play gold once a week, and I go overseas to play golf a few times a year, sometimes even as far as China. I love the scenery and serenity of the golf courses there. I have been playing for twenty years, and I feel golf helps me to wind down and relax. I took up golf because it is a sport that you can play even when you are sixty. It is not as strenuous as other sports.

As for karaoke, I sing at the Tampines East Community Centre every Thursday, for many years now. My favorite songs are often Chinese or Hokkien songs.

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