6 things you need to know before renting a box space in shopping centres

Goody Books Pte. Ltd. has come a long way: before our books were sold in major bookstores and Amazon, our not-that-well-known books were sold through a box space in Plaza Singapura—and during that time, it was the first box space rental shop in Singapore. Now, there are so many that we’ve lost count.

So, was it profitable when we did our sales through these box spaces? To us, yes, because we were aggressively marketing online. But for budding entrepreneurs? Read these points and decide yourself!

1. How it works
It’s not as complicated as you think it is. You choose a box space, pay a one-month deposit and ta-da: you can come in anytime to stock up your products. You are fully responsible for the stock, design of the box and pricing. Rental fee is usually deducted from your sales (if you have any) and they will pay you via bank transfer every month.

2. The price varies depending on the location of the box
Boxes that are on eye level and nearer to the cashier are usually priced slightly higher. One small box could be $90 to $150 for a good location, while a similar-sized box away in the corner can be mere $50. The last we know, box space also charges a commission of 5% to 7% of the total sales. In other words, the total cost is rental space + 7% of sales (if you have any).

3. Sales can be extremely good or extremely bad
The traffic to those shops are usually high, but we’ve made friends with several merchants (the people who rent the boxes are called “merchants”) then and realized that some merchants could get even zero sales while some can get thousands of sales every month. It’s all about your products, because competition is, like in any business, strong.

4. Rules that you have to follow
We don’t know whether there has been any change, but these used to be the house rules:
– No direct communication with walk-in customers when you’re stocking your products (if not you can just sell direct, right?)
– No sale of trademarked items that are not licensed
– No sale of handphone accessories (usually the pioneer sellers would have sold them there, so you can’t expect the entire shop to sell handphone accessories, right?)
– No sale of counterfeit items

5. How does the sale assistant know the price of your items?
The last we know, usually, you have a merchant number, and you have an individual barcode and number. You have to paste a sticker on each item that has your barcode, and write a price on it. This will allow the sales assistant do the settlement of your items more efficiently without any error. The last few years we were with one of the box shops, there has been no error whatsoever. In fact, they even have a system for you to check the sales real-time online.

6. How do stand out to be one of the bestsellers?
A few sales assistants did tell us that our books then were one of the bestsellers, so here’re a few tips:
– Pay more for a better location. You’ve already paid so much for the box and products, so why not a little more for better space?
– Do your “pull marketing”: i.e., do not depend on walk-in customers. Do your publicity online and pull customers to the shop. Not only would you bring in more sales, the shop will like you and provide you with more benefits (since you effectively “pulled” people in)
– Decorate your box to stand out. With so many boxes in a shop, unless you’re the best, you’ll just be the rest. The turnover rate is pretty high, so don’t be part of the statistics.
– Sell things at a competitive price or with a unique selling point. If you’re selling a cup at $3 and the NTUC FairPrice next door is selling it at the same price, people will definitely buy from NTUC FairPrice.
– Stock up regularly. The last time we were there, we made two trips to each box every week (we’ve got a few boxes in different outlets). Don’t rent a space just to sell air, man.