[SG] Vanishing trade finds new customers online

Professional knife sharpener and knife seller Lee Chow Meng (@leechowmeng) opened a physical shop at Redhill, Singapore two years ago after 18 years of running a home-based business and selling kitchen knives at road shows. “I set up stalls at road shows at the Singapore Expo event centre, pasar malams (‘night market’ in English), and shopping malls to sell my knives and offer sharpening services. But road shows were getting more and more expensive. One day’s rent is the same cost as my current shop’s one month rental,” said Chow Meng. 

Unfortunately, the 52-year-old faced another challenge to his business with the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, and he was unable to operate his physical store. Thankfully, he had been trying various e-commerce platforms, before finding two that helped him with both marketing and leads. Carousell was one of them. 

“I saw other people also selling on Carousell, so I tried it out for advertising and to get extra exposure for me. Customers want to see a real photo and details, so I ask customers to look on Carousell, tell me what they want and I can deliver islandwide. They can also see my actual shop address and know I am a genuine seller and not a cheater,” he said. 

Interestingly, while durian knives never moved during the three years they were listed on Carousell, they became very popular last year. “I sold about 150 knives between April and June last year. Many found me on Carousell. I’m the one of the few people selling these handmade knives in Singapore, and because of Covid, they cannot import the knives from Malaysia. It is a dying trade and all these knives have to be tailor made,” he said.

“Sometimes on Carousell, I get customers who need a knife urgently in the middle of the night or early morning so they can operate their business. Within one hour, I can send it over islandwide,” he shares. The savvy businessman also pastes stickers and flyers at markets and hawker centres.

Most of his customers are professional knife users, such as chefs or butchers. “Real users will buy again, because they will know how to use it and want good quality. All my knives are handmade, and I carry all types of knives,” he said, explaining that different knives are used for different cutting and chopping methods for different fruits and meats. He has also created a YouTube channel so his customers can refer to it for tips on how to care for and use the knives and accessories.