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Aik Bee Textile Co.


69 Arab Street, Singapore 199766
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A Long-Woven Legacy

Name of business:Aik Bee Textile Co.
Name of business in other language:益美公司布莊
Business location:69 Arab Street, Singapore 199766
Business type:Textile

Aik Bee Textile Co. is a textile company which prides itself in supplying good quality fabrics. Second-generation owner Ms Jasmine Hoo looks back at the 1970s and 1980s, when Aik Bee supplied fabrics for the sewing of school uniforms and curtains. She recognises the legacy that Aik Bee has woven over the years and is resolved to keep the business going.

Aik Bee Textile Co. can be found in a small, unassuming shophouse along Arab Street. However, stepping into the shop is like stepping into a library of fabrics. Cloths of a variety of colours and materials are folded and stacked on top of each other. At first glance, the stacks of fabrics resemble books. Some fabrics are placed on the floor, reaching one’s waist height. Others are placed on shelves, piling up to the ceiling. The textile company was Established in 1964 and is currently run by third-generation owner Ms Jasmine Hoo.

Aik Bee was founded by Jasmine’s late father-in-law and his brother, the latter of whom she affectionately addresses as “Uncle”. They began selling textiles in a pushcart at the pasar malam (night market) in Geylang in 1964, before the business moved to a rented shophouse on Haji Lane. Aik Bee moved to its current address in Arab Street around 1999 or 2000. Arab Street was a hub for textiles, and the perfect place for Aik Bee to settle in. Jasmine recounts how the 1970s and 1980s had been Arab Street’s heyday, saying, “People walked this street non-stop. It was very crowded; [we] even needed to push each other then you can walk properly.” Though Aik Bee only moved in the 2000s, a typical day in Arab Street was still bustling with activity. “Even during the 2000s when we just bought [the shop] here…we just needed to display the fabric outside here [on the walkway]…people would start buying you know. You don’t even need to sell, just put it out there, people would start to come, people bought non-stop…” Jasmine reminisces with a smile.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the company was one of the biggest fabric suppliers for school uniforms, in different colours, shades, prints, and textures. Supplying fabric for uniforms was a major source of growth for the business, as uniforms were locally manufactured back then. In addition to school uniforms, Aik Bee supplied curtain fabrics during this period. It coincided with a time when more Singaporeans moved into Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats and were keen to buy furnishings for their new home. Aik Bee enjoyed brisk sales for curtain fabrics, receiving imports of them in containers and subsequently distributing them to buyers.

The strong demand for fabrics lasted till the 2000s. Since then, Singapore’s textile industry has changed greatly, and local consumers gradually shifted from tailoring clothes to buying ready-made garments. Today, there are still instances where regular customers would place bulk orders. Yet, the concept of “bulk” has also been redefined. Quantity measured by a container of 100 boxes has been reduced to a bolt of textile, which amounts to about 60 meters for a strip of cloth.

Still, what has remained unchanged for Aik Bee is the consistency of its products. Aik Bee’s main source of textiles has stayed the same, coming from a reputable Japanese supplier. By maintaining a long-term business relationship, the trust and loyalty between Aik Bee and its supplier developed over the years. The mutual trust in the business partnership ensured that the Aik Bee could consistently deliver quality fabrics, which in turn boosted its reputation. Furthermore, Jasmine’s late father-in-law was adamant that honesty and service efficiency are foremost in every trade, as these help to build trust amongst their customers. If an order can be completed within the day, Aik Bee will deliver. Jasmine follows in her late father-in-law’s footsteps and honours the values of Aik Bee as she manages the business.

Having spent four decades working in the business in Kampong Gelam, Jasmine has become accustomed to the culture in Kampong Gelam and would not trade it for anything else. She values the bond with the community, where she knows fellow textile traders, their staff and other business owners. The textile businesses do not see each other as rivals even if they are competing in the same trade. Having spent so many years in the same district, everyone gets along and acts with sincerity.

Jasmine also recognises the reputation that Aik Bee has weaved for itself in Arab Street. “I mean, we have been here for some time, and everyone knows our name. We conduct business in a very sincere and honest, and transparent way and we will not lie to customers, and if the fabric has any wrongs, you can come to exchange it.” She is resolved to persevere for as long as possible, a virtue she learnt from her late father-in-law and his brother. Inspired by how “Uncle” still comes to the shop even at the age of 84 years old, she hopes to have the same passion to work and run the business. She wants to fulfil her late father-in-law’s wish to keep the trade alive.

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