Case studies

LIMs: how one of Singapore's oldest traditional stores modernized its business

BY Jacqueline Wibowo 5 Aug, "15

With SG50, Singapore's 50th anniversary, rapidly approaching, we're getting pumped about all things Singapore. Which is why we bring you this unique case study - profiling a business that is a true embodiment of the country itself: successful, diverse and inspired by a deep respect for tradition and building on the hard work of pioneers before them. Presenting LIMs:

LIMs: True to tradition, receptive to change.

While on vacation in Vietnam, Richard, Rosalind, and Christine Lim might blend in as just three more random tourists walking around a street market. But unlike most of the people around them, the siblings are not just looking for souvenirs for friends back home.

They’re carrying 56 years of history with them that started with their father, - Chor Pian Lim - who also happened to be a carpenter and an entrepreneur. He founded LIMs - a business that sells unique home and workplace goods sourced from all over Asia. Continuing their father’s legacy by running LIMs, the siblings have a mission: to honor these years of history, but also to keep up with modern trends in consumer culture.

Their warehouse carries over 20,000 products inspired by various Asian cultures - it’s a place where you can find eclectic lifestyle products for your home or workplace, or just cool gifts for friends. They don’t always have a set criteria - “We look for an element of handiwork - our dad was a carpenter after all - but usually we just like something and decide that our customers might like it too,” said Christine.

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LIMs prides itself on having an eclectic collection of products - some ancient and some modern. As a result, their customers keep coming back for the latest trends.

At least every other month, they’re out of town, sometimes specifically to look for new products for their store, other times just on vacation. “Even when I’m on vacation though, LIMS is always in the back of my mind,” laughs Christine. LIMS, opened in April 2015, can now be found in Marina Square in Singapore.

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DSC_0065The register at the recently opened LIMs store in Marina Square proudly displays its founding story.

When they find something they really like, all they need to do is pull out their mini photo studio and snap a picture of a new product, and immediately add new stock to their inventory using their smart phones.

In one of LIMs warehouses, Richard Lim sets up his mini photo studio as he prepares to add new items to his TradeGecko inventory.

“I go out to the market, source the products I like, update the inventory details, and create the purchase orders - all on the spot!” -Richard Lim

But it wasn’t always so simple. Richard has been sourcing products since he was 18. He’s now 58, but it was only recently, in the months leading up to the opening of the Marina Square store, that he decided on a change.

The transition - one software to handle it all

Previously, the Lims had to designate staff to manage inventory. They were using a server that came with various pieces of hardware - whether it be point-of-sale, register system, or a cash register. They had an accounts clerk, and inventory clerk, and then multiple assistants - totaling 8 people in the warehouse and a delivery team with 2 delivery trucks. “We were always having issues, and we had to have multiple people managing the server in the warehouse. If the system crashed, it was a nightmare to bring systems back online,” said Richard. 

Prior to switching over to TradeGecko, the LIMs manually managed a huge warehouse with countless pieces of hardware.

At a Singtel seminar about eCommerce, the LIMs decided to make the change when they heard about TradeGecko - “I thought about it - we could’ve gone back to our self-made, manual process, but when I heard about all the features like multiple sales channels and currencies, I decided to try it,” said Richard.

They trialed the system for two weeks before committing, and were able to go live with their new location in just two weeks. It only took two people - Richard and Christine - to get all their stock live onto TradeGecko. Now, they only have two additional staff members handling the warehouse and outsourcing to third parties - all through TradeGecko.

“Now, we can be anywhere - at home, in the office, in a street in Vietnam - and update the orders from any device. If I want, I can open up a pop-up store anywhere, and it’s so simple to just add a sales channel. That’s a huge reduction of work.”

Previously, the Lims would’ve had to go to Vietnam, leave, update inventory manually back home, and then pick up the containers with the products a different time.

Rosalind Lim checks LIMs reports on TradeGecko - accessible from both her laptop and her iPad.

The best is still to come

The Lims still have even bigger plans for expansion. In the past, they’d considered setting up an online store to follow the trend of eCommerce. They found it to be a nightmare - they didn’t want to just put aside inventory for an online store, because back then they didn’t have a way to consolidate all their sales channels.

TradeGecko, with its Shopify and Shopify POS integrations, allowed the Lims to consider opening up an online shop again. After all, setting up an online store would be just as easy as setting up any other sales channels, with all the products synced to one place. They’re also thinking of moving into wholesale using TradeGecko’s B2B eCommerce portal.

“Our company is growing, but what people don’t know is that our costs and staff needed to run our business are going down thanks to TradeGecko.” LIMs has successfully managed a period of transition in their business, all while staying true to its history and customer expectations. TradeGecko is proud to have facilitated the expansion process.

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See also:

Sensational Kids: how to bring additional value to online shopping
All in Brewing: a crafts beer manufacturer - TradeGecko boosts its efficiency
JJ Suspenders: save time and grow your business

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