$50 rental for space in Orchard Road?
IF YOU do not know the concept, you will struggle to make sense of this shop.
Does it sell books? Mobile phone accessories? Lego models? The truth is, it sells them all - and these items on sale belong to different owners.
It is called a box shop. It rents out small compartments to different merchants to sell their wares.
These merchants are looking for just a tiny space, normally at a prime location with high traffic, to park their goods.
The box shops offer them boxes, so that the merchants do not have to rent an entire shop. The boxes have glass doors or open fronts so that the wares can be inspected.
Borrowing the idea from Japan, box shops such as Box Boss and Peek A Box have mushroomed across shopping malls here.
Small merchants love them.
"We wanted to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. So we take away the high rental (and) staffing cost for them", explained Ted Tan, 35, marketing executive of Box Boss.
Merchants only pay sales commissions and rental fees which are highly affordable.
At Peek A Box, rates for boxes range between $50 and $220 per month for different box sizes. The most popular ones measure 42cm by 38cm by 30cm. Rates also depend on the level on which boxes are placed. Other box shops offer similar rates.
Toy Outpost, which is one of the oldest and most successful box shops to date, boasts an average 85 per cent occupancy. It has around 400 lockers available. The older outlets even come close to full capacity.
Another perk for merchants is that the responsibility of selling their products is on box shop assistants, who handle customer inquiries and purchases.
Of course, a box shop assistant's life is not easy. He has to keep track of scores of products. "Through proper communication and training, we train staff to understand different promotions," said Ann Goh, 37, director of Toy Outpost.
Merchants try to decorate their boxes in order to stand out from their neighbours. Some even place electronic photo viewers which showcase the products in the boxes.
Players, such as MyBox at *Scape, have recently joined the market.
Existing players have also expanded rapidly. Peek A Box, which first opened in Bugis+ in November, has four outlets, with plans to expand further. Box Boss has six outlets in heartland malls. Toy Outpost, which includes the spin-off Hako, has 16 outlets islandwide, including at Orchard Road malls.
Individual box owners have done well themselves.
Alan Teo, 23, who is studying electrical engineering at Nanyang Technological University, first rented a box to sell collectible poker cards at Toy Outpost four years ago. His business, named Cardvolution, did so well that he has since expanded and rented boxes in 10 more outlets.
He first turned to a box shop as he was due for national service and could not look after a business. It turned out to be his lucky break.