Twenty4, South-East Asia’s first smart convenience store

Just read a news report that there is this smart convenience store, called Twenty4, opened in Ipoh yesterday. It is apparently the first of its kind in South East Asia.

From what I understand, it is smart in the sense that no one needs to man the convenience store. It is not quite as smart as the Amazon Go supermarket in Seattle where customers can walk in the shop and grab things out from the shelf without having to so much as going to a cashier or a self checkout till.

Amazon Go, introducing you to the world’s most advanced shopping technology

 

Basically Twenty4 is a shop filled with vending machines, so to speak. Instead of accepting cash, or coins, like the traditional vending machines we Malaysians are used to, these vending machines accept credit cards! LOL You can use PayWave to pay for items you want to buy, or maybe using your e-wallet too if you have one by scanning the QR code on the vending machine’s checkout display.

It may sound like it is quite exciting, but actually to think about it, it is just a marketing gimmick. From one of the video I watched, it is not quicker to buy from one of these vending machines than say from a manned cashier in a typical convenience store. Perhaps the difference is there are multiple vending machines rather than just one cashier serving you, so queue forming is not as likely.

Besides, their claims that they get advertising revenue, from displaying advertisements in their shop or vending machines, I believe, are just trying to give you the impression that the items you buy from their vending machines can potentially be subsidised and thus are cheaper than buying elsewhere. But I very much doubt it. Items sold in convenience stores are typically low value items and it is difficult to negotiate a good price if you are not moving products in volume. (These vending machines can’t store many items, to be honest.) And they don’t sell as many varieties as in a typical convenience store. Moreover, this Twenty4 even occupies a prime space, albeit quite a lousy one, in Ipoh Parade! (I said lousy because it is not connected to the inside of Ipoh Parade. People shopping in Ipoh Parade need to exit the nearest main entrance to get to the store. Not ideal at all.) Perhaps it is a concept store so they can afford to do that, initially. In the long run I believe it will be loss making. The area around there has not a dense enough population (in fact nowhere in Ipoh is dense enough LOL.) There are schools, a shopping mall, and a hotel next to it. But no high rise residential.

For some reasons Ipoh, full of old folks, likes to get into “smart” technologies, with robot waitresses dishing out food in Nam Heong SOHO, and now smart convenience store with vending machines. Is Ipoh really a good place for testing out new technologies for businesses? Perhaps Ipoh just has more adventurous and loaded entrepreneurs than others.

Mixed rice 雜飯

Food is indeed so much more conveniently available in Malaysian than in the U.K. One of the best places for me to get my lunch is to going to a mixed rice stall 雜飯檔. You get a wide selection of dishes you can choose from to put on your plate of rice. Most often I’ll go for one that serves mostly Chinese dishes. Sometimes I’ll go to a mamak stall to eat nasi kandar, which is pretty much the same, but with more curry selections, and it is halal. Anyway it’s very satisfying. I don’t need to cook, it is cheap, and I’m happy, most of the time, with the food I get to eat. Today I found this shop close to where I live that serves a lot of Teochew food. I’m a Teochew, so ya it’s nice, to have another shop to choose from for lunch from now on. You see I don’t like spending a lot of time on food. One of the sources of frustration when I was in the U.K. was it’s a headache to fill up my tummy. My work place had a canteen so I’d normally just eat lunch there. I’m not such a fussy person so it was good. But when it came to Saturday and Sunday, at home, I’d have to cook, otherwise we would just be eating sandwiches. On this I’m glad I’m back in Malaysia.

A disastrous August

This is the worst year for our business so far. Over the years the second half of the year was the half that would pull our numbers out from the red. But this year it is so weak that it looks increasingly likely that it would not be enough barred a miracle. This bloody yoyo between GST and SST version 2 didn’t help. In fact I have feeling that our business would be slightly better off if GST remained in place. That Minister of Finance aka Lim Guan Eng is doing nothing of the sort that will boost the consumer confidence. He is just very good in blowing out bad news after bad news in the name of making the previous government, or in particular Najib, looks bad. He’s certainly not the brightest bulb in the ruling coalition, but hey he somehow manages to climb up the ranks, probably with no little help from his father Lim Kit Siang.

Anyway, it’s the 1st of September, the day when SST version 2 commences. Our business won’t have to charge a 6% service tax, because LGE made a U-turn after much complaints from F&B businesses. The threshold was set to be RM500k revenue a year before a business needs to charge the 6% service tax. Then it was revived to RM1 million. And yesterday, or just a few days ago, the threshold was further revised to RM1.5 million. Big deal. The threshold for the previous SST, before GST was implemented, was bloody RM3 million! There will be another round of price increase you better believe it.