(pushcart stall outside National Library for rental)
Pushcarts – selling all manner of products – are now a common sight in Singapore. These OMOs (one-man operations) can be found almost everywhere, including in crowded outdoor areas and within even more crowded shopping centres!
An acquaintance recently asked me what I thought about pushcart businesses, as she was considering starting one. I’ve summarised the essence of our discussion as follows:
1. Selling the Right Products
Having the right products make or break your pushcart business. Consider the following points:
- Targeting the right market. Remember that the passing crowd in Raffles City Shopping Centre is very different from the one in Hougang Mall, so pick the right product for the right place. We hear that the pushcarts ones selling jewellery in Raffles City Shopping Centre does a roaring trade, considering the largely female, executive crowd in that area. On the other hand, a $5 bra-and-panty set would probably sell better in the latter than the former.
- Product positioning. I’ve seen some sell accounting software, insurance and investment tools from pushcarts. Riiiight… what were they thinking? When I buy such products, I want to get it from a credible source I trust and not from a pushcart vendor. I’d imagine that their business would’ve been poor.
- Does it require me to try? Sell products whose function and aesthetics are immediately evident. Clothes don’t sell particularly well from pushcarts because there is no way for them to try for size and cut.
- Limited display and storage space. This means that large bulky items are out of the question. 4 large feathery cushions and you’re pretty much outta space. So go for small items, where you can display a larger variety that appeals to a larger audience.
2. Pricing – Not Too High, Not Too Low
Do you really think many people would buy a really expensive product – a Gucci handbag (authentic ones, at least) – from a pushcart? The idea is to encourage impulse buying – don’t make them stop to really think about the cost of their impending purchase. That is the reason why one of the best-selling products is handmade jewellery priced below $10. Most women don’t blink over paying $10 for a pretty brooch or cute bracelet.
Price your goods such that it makes it easy for people to pay. $9.99 may make your product look cheaper (as opposed to $10.00), but don’t make them fiddle for coins or notes. Go forÂ $1, $2, $5 or $10 permutations. They are likely to be in a hurry, and you don’t want to wrestle with loose change either.
3. Location, Location, Location
Many pushcart vendors think that the best places are those with the heaviest traffic flow. Wrong. Heavy traffic means that people are usually in a hurry and are simply rushing (or worse, pushed along) to their destinations. I’d pick cul-de-sacs and corners, spots where the terrain helps keep people near your pushcart for those critical few seconds so that your products catch their eye.
Similarly, one of the best places would be just outside the restrooms! You may be squeamish, but think of how you can capitalise on the fact that there’s going to be a long queue for the ladies’ restrooms. Their gal friends, husbands and boyfriends are hanging outside waiting – right next to your pushcart. It’s a near captive audience. $$.
4. Pushcart, Pull Strategy
Passers-by are, well, passing by. They may not be in a shopping mood. You need attract people to your pushcart, yet not appear too pushy (pun fully intended). Clear, attractive signage is mandatory. Make it clear what you’re offering, and at what price. Let your signs do the talking.
Some people believe in hiring SWTs (sweet young things, also known asÂ pretty girls) to attract passers-by. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work, but make sure your products appeal to the audience that will be drawn to your pushcart (horny army boys, sleazy ah-peks etc).
Being too pushy is counter-productive. Remember, since pushcarts are small, personal space can be quite limited. Ask me too many questions, and I’m going to walk away.
Pushcarts are a great way for people to start their journey into business and entrepreneurship. Being an OMO forces you to be heavily involved every aspect of business, from accounting and operations to customer service. Many businesses started from a pushcart stall. Maybe yours can too!
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