28 October 2016
Hinz’s online grocery shop helps small traditional vendors reach out to more consumers. Meanwhile, he is also creating jobs for the elderly.
Hinz’s online grocery shop helps small traditional vendors reach out to more consumers. Meanwhile, he is also creating jobs for the elderly.

How a young designer took e-commerce to wet market outlets

Walk into any neighborhood in Hong Kong and the first thing that often strikes you is an array of small shops that are popular with locals.

Holding their own against an onslaught of chain stores and giant shopping malls, the small retail outlets are a testament to their owners’ grit and determination and a winning survival strategy.

But while the shops have built up loyal clientele within their immediate community, the operators mostly find it difficult to reach out to a bigger audience.

Tied up in their daily operations, many owners are unable to devote enough time to plan business expansion.

And some who are keen to broaden their operations and attract more customers just don’t know how to go about it.

Money is always a concern too. Small store owners want more business, but they are less excited about investing in technology that would help them do that.

Against this backdrop, one local design professional is aiming to fill a gap in the market by helping small stores sell to a wider audience. 

Hinz Pak, a graduate of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Designis using his expertise to help small shop owners in his neighborhood. 

He has set up a website called Jou Sun, an online grocery store that helps people buy produce and ingredients from the Wanchai wet market and other small shops adjacent to his company.

The chosen counterparties are mostly family-run or social enterprises that Jou Sun knows and trusts in terms of conducting a fair and honest business.

When a customer places an order on the internet, a Jou Sun worker files the information. Orders are consolidated into purchase lists, setting the stage for the items to be picked up from the supplier.

“The website can pool together a group of stores that each has its specialties and unique strengths,” Hinz told RTHK.

For instance, some vegetable suppliers go to the farm each morning to get the fresh produce, allowing the website to truly offer food from farm to fork.

Store owners that participate in the program are delighted to get such help.

“Hinz is a perfect match for us. We wanted to get more customers but we really didn’t know how to do it. Using Hinz’s website, we get what we need and the best thing is we don’t have to invest ourselves,” says Tim, who runs a vegetable store.

Those who found work as purchasers are also grateful to Hinz.

An elderly woman surnamed Fan said she was glad for getting a chance to work at her age.

“After retirement, it’s hard to find work,” the lady said. “I am really thankful for the opportunity.”

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EJ Insight writer

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