Christmas lights are up but budgets are down at Orchard Road malls
Shopping malls scale down on holiday decorations amid pandemic, with some reusing old items
Orchard Road malls are keeping it simple for the peak shopping season, scaling down on Christmas decorations amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
For instance, Wisma Atria has spent 19 per cent less on Christmas decorations this year than a year ago, while Tanglin Mall said it has spent "slightly less". Mandarin Gallery said its budget has been "moderated downwards".
Design and build firm Dezign Format, which dressed up five Orchard Road malls this year, said decoration budgets have been "affected across the board".
Malls such as Far East Plaza are reusing some decorations from last year, sprucing them up where necessary.
The Orchard Road Business Association, which organises the annual light-up on the street, had earlier said that while the light-up remains as bright this year as with previous years, safe distancing measures mean there will be no street-level activities like pop-up stores and performances.
The retail sector has taken a beating this year. Latest government figures show that for eight months since February, monthly retail sales excluding motor vehicles have been down from a year ago.
In September, the drop was 12.7 per cent compared with the same period last year.
Mr Amos Tan, a senior lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic's School of Business, said that malls may be erring on the side of caution after retail stalwart Robinsons announced last month that it would close its last two stores, at Raffles City Shopping Centre and The Heeren.
He said: "Robinsons is a wake-up call. We think that Orchard Road is pandemic-proof, but it's not. While Christmas lights may bring people to Orchard Road, whether they will spend is another issue."
Many shoppers have spotted a difference in the light-up all over town - fewer and smaller Christmas trees than those seen in previous years.
Ms Dolin Ong, 38, said the tree outside Paragon was the tallest she has seen this year.
"There are fewer tourists this year so maybe that is why malls are spending less," said Ms Ong, who is head of sales in a payments company.
Another shopper, Mr Munir Mohd Basni, 48, said the blue hues of the Orchard Road light-up were "calming" compared with the "very bright and golden" ones in Christmas past.
But the supervisor in a petrochemical company was struck by the empty spaces in front of many malls.
"There were carriages outside some malls in previous years."
Instead of using fir or pine trees often associated with Christmas, Orchard Gateway opted for a sculpture made with crates stacked in the shape of a tree. Fairy lights add a finishing touch to the crates, which are painted red and green.
Mr Suresh Pillai, who was in Orchard Road with his wife Jyoti on Friday, said it was a brilliant idea. "It's more like artwork... very different from your usual Christmas tree," added the 54-year-old superintendent in the oil and gas sector.