Singapore's Sim Lim and Why the Best Tech never make it to Walmart
By jhawk on Oct 05, 2005
On my visit to Singapore, I usually stop by the famous Sim Lim Electronic Shopping Centre. This is usually a great place to see what the future holds for technology. The thing about Sim Lim is that you can never expect to see fair prices. It is definately "Buyer Beware!" when you go there. Here is a good guide for shopping there. If you do your research, you can usually find good deals. But if you impulse shop, you usually can find yourself paying hundreds of dollars above the market price of a product. Ok.. I admit I got ripped off there..
Walking around Sim Lim, you will see technologies that will never make it in America for many years... if ever.. I often find myself asking, why aren't these superior technologies selling like hotcakes in the USA? I believe the answer isn't in the value of the technology, but in the economics of the supply chain of how these technologies make it (or never make it) to the retail store shelves. If folks in Ohio don't see it on the shelf at Best Buy or Walmart, then they are never likely to buy it. Even if a few entrapenurs manage to get these products into online stores or eBay, the customer will never feel "right" until they "see and play with" the technology. The power lies with the retail buyers and distributors. Their interests are profit margins and vendor relations with the big companies (such as Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi, etc..).
One example is a set of portable speakers for my iPod. I found a terrific set of speakers from Sonic Impact Technologies which serves all my needs. The price of these speakers? $19usd!! If I go to Best Buy today and look for the lowest price portable speaker, I would find Sony's speakers for around $89usd. That is a $70 difference in price. I tried both, and I didn't much improvement in the quality of the sound than the 3-4 times the variance of the cost. I actually think the cheaper one sounds better with less batteries required. The buyer at the large Electronic Retail chain does not care so much about the improved quality, they care more about how that product will make them money. If they make a 3-5% margin on a product, they will make $2.67 on the Sony Product and only $0.57 on the Sonic Impact product. Further more are the kickbacks, Sony probly pays big bucks to have their products positioned in prominate locations on the store shelves and in their weekly advertisements. This probly earns the retailer (let's say) $100,000 per month which they can offset their advertising budget. So what we see here in America when we go to the Electronic Mega-Store, we see only a small portion of the products available to us.
So what does this mean to a techie nerd like me? This means that unless I stumble across a better product, I'm likely to only buy what is available in front of me. I'm sure I could seek online reviews, but how much of that is actually artificially skewed towards advertisers? If I go online, and I seek those Sonic Impact speakers. I can find them at Amazon.com only if I know what I'm looking for a particular item. ( Here is the listing for the speakers) If I tried to browse around for cheap speakers, I would never find the product. As they say in Las Vegas.. The odds are always in favor of the house!