Kitchenware firm thrives by cooking up new ideas

Ms Grace Tan says re-invention has always been at the heart of ToTT's ethos. The kitchenware retailer has branched out into e-commerce, cooking lessons and even customised kitchenware.
Ms Grace Tan says re-invention has always been at the heart of ToTT's ethos. The kitchenware retailer has branched out into e-commerce, cooking lessons and even customised kitchenware.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

There is often something new on the menu at kitchenware retailer ToTT.

Since opening its first outlet in 2010, the firm has branched out into e-commerce, cooking lessons and even customised kitchenware.

Re-invention has always been at the heart of the company's ethos, said ToTT director Grace Tan.

Her grandfather founded ToTT's parent company Sia Huat, which started in 1959 in Temple Street selling kitchenware to industrial kitchens, restaurants and chefs. The company noticed a gap in the market for household kitchenware products, and ToTT - which stands for Tools of the Trade - was born.

The retail chain now has two stores here and remains a family business - Ms Tan's father, Mr Tan Choon Boon, is Sia Huat's chief executive.

Both of ToTT's outlets integrate shopping with in-store kitchens where classes and cooking demonstrations are conducted.

The company also set up a bistro at its Dunearn outlet to complement the culinary retail experience.

These additions contribute about 20 per cent of overall revenue, Ms Tan, 38, said, with kitchenware retail still making up the bulk of sales at 80 per cent.

ToTT also launched an online store in 2013.

"These measures attract the attention of consumers and keep them consistently engaged in the shopping experience," said Ms Tan.

The retailer, which employs around 60 people, noted that sales held steady last year despite sluggish economic conditions.

Ms Tan acknowledged that competition in the retail industry is fierce, but added that a focus on quality is ToTT's best bet for the future.

"While sites such as Taobao may offer cheaper deals, their products do not come with any form of quality assurance," she said. "ToTT allows customers to try out various products before purchasing them. We set high expectations for product and service quality."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Kitchenware firm thrives by cooking up new ideas'. Print Edition | Subscribe