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Unmanned convenience stores doing well in KK
Published on: Sunday, October 20, 2019
By: Bernama
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KUALA LUMPUR: Unmanned convenience stores may sound like a new idea in Malaysia, but don’t be surprised to hear that they are already here, with four found in Kota Kinabalu thanks to EzyBox and already patronised by more than 10,000 customers.

While on a visit to China two years ago, EzyBox co-founders — Allen Tsang, 37, John Lee, 26, and Chan Jie Yang, 29 — were so impressed by the popularity of unmanned convenience stores that they decided they would be among the first pioneers of the concept back home.

“Despite concerns that growth in Kota Kinabalu may not be as rapid as Kuala Lumpur to ensure the concept is viable, surprisingly youngsters and tourists who’ve come to Sabah often visit our stores because they are familiar with the concept,” said Tsang. 

He said customers need only to have a WeChat account to enter the store, pay for the purchase using an e-wallet app, then scan the purchase using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to verify payment before the door is unlocked for exit.

“Some people say it’s too advanced and difficult to use, but China has done it, they have been going cashless since many years ago. 

“If we want to be an advanced country, we have to start educating people about going cashless,” he said.

While EzyBox, under IFS Technology Sdn Bhd, may not be the first unmanned convenience store idea in Malaysia, the company is probably the first one to be

able to sustain the business model and expand the chain.

Tsang said the business was started a year ago with only four employees and now there are 15 employees who are responsible for the four convenience stores in Kota Kinabalu.

“Renting a shop and hiring employees in Kuala Lumpur may cost more than RM10,000 per month, but in Kota Kinabalu, we have managed to run a store that is 16.7sq m – 18.5sq m (180sq ft - 200sq ft) in size for less than RM5,000. 

“So our expenses are low but profitable, just like a traditional convenience store,” he said.

The main selling point of EzyBox is the imported snacks and drinks from China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, UK and US at affordable prices.

With unmanned convenience stores, the public might ask: “If there is no employee present at the 24-hour store, how do they deal with theft and shoplifting?”

“Unlike a traditional store, the EzyBox system is integrated with mobile apps, so we will know the customer’s identity and who hasn’t paid. 

“So security-wise, it is easier to capture a thief,” he said.

On top of that, said Tsang, EzyBox has four professional customer service staffers working around the clock to assist customers. 

He said it is even easier now to monitor the stores since they have access to all the closed-circuit televisions (CCTV) through their mobile phones. 

He believes having advanced technology will make convenience stores more secure and reduce the likelihood of a robbery. 

The success of EzyBox in Kota Kinabalu has prompted Tsang and partners to expand the business to RekaScape in Cyberjaya, with the first unmanned outlet to be launched next month. 

They also plan to open two unmanned convenience stores in University Malaysia Sabah (UMS), including the first unmanned stationery shop.

When asked whether KLites will see an EzyBox outlet anytime soon, Tsang said that they will need more time for this since a few unmanned stores by other people already exist in the capital, although they have yet to see major progress.

“Of course it’s not going to be easy to educate people to scan-and-pay using their mobile phone, but we have to take the first step.

“We can achieve a lot of change in the future, you can even have unmanned hardware, home-living or clothing stores, and this will create more job opportunities. 

“I believe that one day unmanned stores will become the norm,” he said.



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