More than 50 SMEs have already applied to have their products on the shelves of a first-of its-kind one-stop souvenir centre  which will begin operations next month to showcase made-in-Brunei goods as well as Brunei lifestyle and culture.

The Brunei Local Products and Souvenir Centre will take over the old Citibank venue on Jalan Sultan in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan. Boasting more than 10,000 square feet of retail space across two levels, it aims to provide convenience to tourists and Bruneians alike when sourcing for high-quality locally made goods and souvenirs.

Its prime location — near to landmarks such as the water village and the newly opened Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas —  means that it is within easy access for expatriate workers, tour groups and tourists as well as Bruneians within the immediate catchment area.

“We will provide free display space and there will be no rental charged for local SMEs, making it a low risk business venture,” Edwin Eng, a representative from S.Naaz Sdn Bhd said during a briefing for interested vendors earlier today.

An artist impression of the soon-to-open SME product hub in the capital. Photo: Courtesy of S.Naaz Sdn Bhd

Instead of charging rent, the retail establishment will deduct a 20 to 30 per cent commission off monthly sales. Currently, Edwin said they are still in the process of reviewing products submitted by local MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises). These include sample products of fashion apparel and accessories, handicrafts as well as food and beverage.

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For vendors who meet the criteria set out by the souvenir centre, it willl take charge of all sales and marketing strategy and will also provide a support programme to ensure viability of their products. The centre will also practice strict quality control.

According to Edwin, one of the criteria is that products must be locally manufactured. “For those in food and beverage, we require a halal certification. [We are looking] for SMEs who are, of course, dedicated and committed to growth. We are also looking for presentable packaging with the objective of international standards,” he said.

A representative from S.Naaz Sdn Bhd during a Q&A session earlier. Photo: Hadthiah Hazair/ The Scoop

However, the centre is willing to collaborate and look at ways to help local businesses who need assistance meeting packaging standards. “We don’t want just plain packaging, but we can work together,” the S.Naaz representative said.

He highlighted that the centre aims to become a training ground for local MSMEs to learn how to efficiently market their businesses. The area allocated to showcase made-in-Brunei products will be on the first floor, with around 3,500 square feet. The area, Edwin said, could accommodate around 60 to 80 SMEs’ products display and could hold about 100 customers at a time.

On the ground level, there will be a supermarket, a local coffee shop and a fast food joint. Meanwhile, the first floor, where the SME products hub will be located, it will also showcase Brunei culture such as a mock wedding.

During a question-and-answer session at the talk earlier, a few SMEs aired their concerns, among which is how the centre plans to attract foot traffic.

“We are working closely with travel agents, and data shows that [on average Brunei sees] 4,000 Chinese tourists a month,” Edwin assured.