Merchant of the Month: November 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
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K&K Aquarium

Owner:

Mr Low Yap Khing, 67 years old.

Owner Profile:

Mr Low, nicknamed “Ah Khing”, has been in the Aquarium business for 50 years. Starting out when at the tender age of 17, Mr Low worked at an aquarium shop in Yio Chu Kang. Ten years later, he opened his own shop at Bedok 85. After being there for 5 years, in 1985, Mr Low then moved his shop to its current location, at Tampines N2 Block 201D. K&K Aquarium has come a long way since it first started close to 30 years ago, and Mr Low has not looked back ever since. When we spoke to Mr Low, we could sense a great passion for his craft, speaking like a master, willing to teach everything to his disciples.

Mr Low also expressed the importance of family time. He has two children, one of whom, his son, helps out at the shop. Mr Low said that he often spends time with his family. He encourages them to go on holidays together, but he doesn’t go along as he feels the need to tend to his shop.

Shop Profile:

K&K Aquarium is located at Tampines N2 Block 201D. It is opened from 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week. Besides fishes, prawns, aquatic plants and the like, the shop also sells pets like rabbits, hamsters, mice, and their feed as well. Basically K&K Aquarium is a one-stop shop for all your pets needs.

Q&A:

Looking back at your vast experience, how has the Aquarium business evolved over the years and what are the current trends?

As compared to 10, 20 years ago, the fish business is getting tougher. There are two main reasons for this, lifestyle changes and competition.

Firstly, today’s generation are all into technology. They spend most of their time on their gadgets. There are even virtual aquariums now! The younger generation of today are less interested in pets like fish. What’s worse, due to the smaller houses of young couples in this age, space is a constraint. Having a fish tank in the home would take up space. As a result, sales are not as good as before.

Secondly, the market has become much more competitive. With diversification, many shops like mine do not only concentrate on one type of pet. Many aquariums sell non-aquatic pets like rabbits, and vice versa. What’s more, even the big fish farms are branching out and they even sell to the average customer like us now. As I mentioned before, technology is taking over, even in sales.

There are forums and websites that people today go to trade or sell their fishes. All these factors have made the market very competitive. Such is the reality that I have seen so many aquariums folding up recently. Most new shops don’t make it for long. The aquarium market has shrunk from an estimated 300 over shops to now less than 100 in Singapore. As for myself, I started out with two shops, one for fish, and one for rabbits, hamsters and such. Now, I have combined the two shops into one, using one shop front.

What are some of the ways you can deal with the competitive market and what sets you apart from the other aquariums?

Being in business for so long, we definitely have many long time customers. The neighbourhood knows us as well. I recall there are a few occasions where children came up to me really wanting a fish for a pet, but lacking a dollar or so. In some cases, because I want to pass off my passion to others, I gave it to the children at a discount.

Quite often new fish owners buy equipment like tanks and pumps from our shop but have no idea how to install them. We will personally go to their houses and settle everything for them, as an added service. Being in a neighbourhood allows us to easily do these things for our customers and I feel that is where I want my shop to stand out.

What advice do you have to give budding aquariums and even fish owners?

To be honest, the market now is not an easy one like I have mentioned. It takes a lot of hard work. Be honest to your customers. I have heard of many aquariums trying to con customers. The water in your tank is also very important. Know your fish well. Read up and study them. Some fish prefer colder temperatures and some prefer warmer. The water from our taps may not be suitable for certain breed of fish. Spend time to ensure that the condition of your tank water is suitable before introducing the fish.

I always tell everyone that although I sell fishes, I do not see them as just a product. Love and care for your fishes are what rearing fish is about. Pets are not just a display! For me, joy and satisfaction comes from cleaning and tidying up my fish tank, changing the water, and remodeling the interior. My passion is as strong as it was 50 years ago.

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