Entrepreneurs expect silver lining in 2021


THE year 2020 may have been a rollercoaster ride for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as they strive hard to weather the tough Movement Control Order (MCO) period, but a more positive outlook is very much anticipated next year.

Christy Ng Sdn Bhd founder Christy Ng said consumer spending is currently encouraging and judging from the increasingly bullish economic growth, a 90% recovery could be expected by 2021.

She said sales figures for the shoe retailer and manufacturer have been gradually recovering throughout the Recovery MCO (RMCO) period.

“I would say that there is sustained spending rather than a rise for both of our products, shoes and bags, but sales of both items are equally encouraging,” she told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Ng said the brand had to put its expansion plan on hold, including the proposal to open two new retail stores next year.

Founded in 2012 as a small business making women’s footwear in Ng’s living room, the business has grown from its first store in 1Utama Shopping Centre in 2016 to eight stores across Malaysia currently.

It also reported commendable success on an e-commerce platform that serves the global audience.

“We ship the products internationally and customers are able to customise their shoes from scratch, from the colour and shape of the shoe to the height of the heel,” Ng said.

Sharing her optimism is UMMA founder Zairin Azman, who said business has been good with a surprising rise in consumer spending for the brand despite the pandemic.

“We introduced the Hoolah and Rely instalment options on the website shortly after the MCO was lifted and we saw growth in sales every month. It has definitely eased the burden of shoppers during difficult times.

“We have learned so much in the past few months, thinking of different marketing plans, and we are so grateful for the learning curve,” she told TMR in an email interview.

UMMA, which sells modest wear, currently has two outlets at Isetan KLCC and AEON Shah Alam. It is also doing relatively well on its online platform, www. umma.my, via Fashion Valet, Zalora and Shopee.

Face & Co founder Intan Ilyani Ghazali, who is aiming for a niche clientele, offers a new skincare range that is formulated specifically for men launched in April.

Although the business was affected by the MCO, Intan Ilyani and her team continue moving forward.

“We are optimistic that our business will get better by the first quarter of 2021 (1Q21).

“While pushing for as much sales and expanding brand awareness for 4Q20, our main focus and business implementation plans are for 2021,” she told TMR in a phone interview.

Intan Ilyani, who left the corporate world after 15 years to pursue her passion in skincare, health and wellness, is also a certified brand image consultant. She said the group is engaging its potential partners in Indonesia and Singapore as it is more into brand collaborations instead of opening physical outlets.

“We believe it is still not a good move to have a physical store until the time is right, maybe another year or two. For product expansion, our R&D (research and development) team is working on our own botanical drink, which we hope to launch in 2Q21.”

Intan Ilyani said financial schemes introduced by the government do help, but it would be more effective if the fund is equally distributed via a simpler system.

She also recommended that a reward scheme be introduced to encourage people to buy local products.

Cornery FNB Sdn Bhd MD Datuk Joe Tan said business has been encouraging in certain malls and states, but sales are still weak at tourist hotspots such as airports and Genting Highlands.

Apart from lower spending power, the volume of visitors at malls is also curtailed by all the standard operating procedures (SOPs) including social distancing and other measures during RMCO.

“Our revenue was only between 10% and 20% during MCO compared to now. We are concerned that customers’ spending will be seriously affected after the loan moratorium period is over.

“We are slowing down all our expansion plans at the moment. In my opinion, business will only get better in 2021,” he told TMR.

Currently, there are three food and beverage brands under Cornery FNB’s portfolio — Street Churros, Indobowl Resto and Cornery-The Popcorn Gallery.

Joe said the group will open a new outlet of Street Churros in November and is in discussion with a few prospects for franchising.

He suggested the wage subsidy programme be extended because he believes many businesses may have to look into more cost-cutting measures if it is not extended.

“More support from the government is needed in terms of wage subsidy and incentives to landlords to reduce the rental cost.”