Today I have a pleasure to interview a toy shop owner in Malaysia who have been running toy business for 15 over years. XL-Shop not only have 4 shops covering different parts of Malaysia but a strong online presence. Beside doing toy business, it has a blog, forum and even his own comics! How cool is that?
Personally I have been enjoying XL comics which lead me to interview with the owner Rodney aka 小龙.
Your shop 小龙商号 has been around for 15 years to date. How did you start your shop? Is it a family business?
In the early 1990s I was an editor in a comics magazine company, and my pen name for my magazine column was 小龙商号.
At that time the toy scene was underdeveloped and many products could only be found overseas and in imported magazines. The 小龙 column sought to bridge such a gap between the local toy scene and the overseas, more developed scene.
Everyone hoped that one day, the column could change into a reality to become a shop, so that there is an outlet for the overseas toys to be sold and enjoyed by all. With everyone's blessings, the first shop was established in 1995.
When and what get you started into having a Toy business?
At the beginning we did not retail many toys. Majority (90%) of our stocks was family electronic games. However I am an avid toy collector, so eventually i managed to establish connections to Japan's toys and moved from electronic games to collector toys.
You have currently 4 location of your shops all over Malaysia and you accept international orders. Which is your biggest customer base? Malaysia or overseas?
It is probably Malaysia. As there is not much investment of resources in the website, I suppose that there is still a lot of improvement awaiting (laughs).
Which shop is your flagship shop and the one you personally there?
I do not know which one is truly the flagship store. However I spent most of my time at the Ampang H.Q.
How do you keep your workforce alive with some many store outlet?
I believe that it is team work and good communication, even though there may be occasional disputes. however, i believe that if everyone is committed to the common objective of great toys, any differences can be resolved.
Your first comic started on Jun 2008. How did you move into comic? Was that a team effort?
I spent many years dabbling in comics, as a comics editor, and I got to know many comic artists. At the shop's 13th anniversary, I decided to use comics as a vehicle to share with everyone my thoughts and my conception of the Uncle Loong story.
Who is the artist of your comic? How did you guys get those ideas from?
Mainly Michael Chuah creates the concepts and ideas. We meet once or twice monthly to discuss, and I will share with him incidents that happened in the shop to give him some ideas. Other times I get ideas out of the blue when I am at home, showering or answering nature's call! Then I will phone Michael to tell him about it.
I am safe to assume that some of the comic theme are real life experiences of toy collectors such as wives who are not happy with their husband purchases?
Certainly. That is what we have personally seen or heard, isn't it?
Are those characters of your comic link to any real person in real life?
Yes, some characters are projections of real life customers! But of course I did not use their real names.
You have a XL-team in your forum, how big is your team?
Between 10-20, including the moderator. The team mostly comprises of friends and regular customers. To be honest, i would not label it as a team!
Having your own toy business does it lower your passion for toys as a collector?
Indeed! I do feel that way. A good analogy would be a King in the ancient times, with thousands of wives but without an opportunity to really understand all of them.
On your personal note, which is your most favorite toy?
I am rather fickle, and I like a variety of toys. I like all toys below 12 inches, so long as they are pretty! Can't really identify one which is my favorite, but i guess the vinyl toys by Micheal Lau and Eric So rank quite high in my list.
Is there a toy that you hated most?
Hate is a very strong expression that i would rather not use, but there is no specific toy that i dislike.
Do you have any other future plan for your Toy business?
I have never thought too far in terms of toy business plans (Ha ha ha ha ha). On the other hand, I do often consider how to further the ＂小龙商号＂ business if I decide to step down.
Thank you for having this interview with us.