By Jo Lynn Chong
As L. Frank Baum once said, “Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”
Lau, 62, first ventured into the electrical home appliances business 34 years ago. After learning some tricks of the trade, he and his wife opened their own shop, LY Chun Sales & Service, in 1995, catering for customers who want to purchase or service Panasonic electrical home appliances.
Fast forward to the present day, Lau’s business faces competition from merchandise chain shops and online businesses. The wave of E-commerce has led to the faltering of lots of businesses, including Lau’s.
“Lots of people would rather buy online than to go to a shop and what’s more, people will buy new appliances instead of sending their old ones to be serviced, which is more money-saving,” a middle-aged customer, who wished to remain anonymous, exclaimed.
The shop will eventually close when Lau and his wife retire as their children will not be taking over the shop. “It’s safe to say that this business is becoming very difficult,” said Lau’s wife. “We encourage our children to pursue other career fields with better job prospects.”
“Actually, there is a lack of young skilled workers in this field here in Ipoh. They either go to Penang or Kuala Lumpur where they feel they can earn more,” the couple asserted.
Time is running out
For three decades, Liew Hock Leong has been practising his craft of repairing timepieces. His shop in Persiaran Silibin Utara is adorned with classic grandfather clocks that emanate an alluring kind of sentimentality and warmth.
Gifted with deft fingers and a great eye for detail, the watchmaker works steadily, all day long in the tropical heat.
“We’ll no longer be able to have our Black Forest cuckoo clock fixed whenever it malfunctions once Liew’s shop closes. We bought the cuckoo clock in Germany approximately 20 years ago, and after going to so many clock shops, we finally found someone who was able to repair it,” Christel, a 52-year-old customer lamented.
Although his business is still going strong, Liew too faces threats of having to close down as a successor is nowhere to be found. “Youngsters do not want to work here, as the working hours are long and the pay is low,” said Liew.
Fixing watches and clocks requires great amounts of patience and attention to detail. Besides, how many young people would be willing to work in a place without air conditioning these days?
Small scale retailers, photographic processing and printing industries are other businesses that are gradually diminishing in importance. Having been brutally substituted by 21st-century inventions, taken over by millennial minds, what can we say, but to accept that we have entered a world of new expectations, of which we can neither fathom nor appreciate the extent.
Perhaps we have to remember that what we live in is a world of perpetual change and that wherever we go, we will find ourselves up against the invincible pull of technology and lured in by the comfort that it offers.
“Thirty or so years ago, these shops thrived; 30 years from now, they’ll be gone. Today, as of now, we bear witness to a turning point in time, a peripeteia that has yet to unfold,” said an Ipohite.