Singapore

Crowds returning to malls across Singapore despite Covid-19

Sales and promotions attracting customers but tourist-reliant malls still badly hit: Retailers Association

It seems not even the coronavirus can deter Singaporeans from going for attractive sales.

When The New Paper visited Isetan department store at suburban mall Westgate on Saturday, hundreds of shoppers were at its moving-out sale.

One of them, Mr Bernard Seah, 65, said he was a bit concerned when he saw the throng.

"I've tried to avoid crowds, but since there was a sale, I went in for a while," he said.

"The virus does not seem so serious now as most clusters are identified and contained."

The slow but steady return of many locals' favourite pastime comes amid a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, mainly because of a new cluster at Safra Jurong.

Nine of the 12 new cases yesterday were from the Safra cluster, making it the largest cluster now, with 30 people infected.

At Westgate, a tenant, Mr Daniel Wei, 32, said he had considered closing his Tempura Fuji food stall, but is now having second thoughts after being encouraged by an improvement in takings over the weekend.

At Jem mall, next to Westgate, queues formed at some stores, and five retailers told TNP that the shoppers are back.

Ms Xela Suan, 32, who works at health supplement store Xndo, said: "It's like the virus isn't around this weekend. I think people are more comfortable with the situation now."

Eight out of 10 tenants at VivoCity also noticed an increase in footfall over the past week.

An analyst report by local bank DBS last week said more spaces are being occupied at carparks in the HarbourFront and Orchard areas.

A week after the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) was raised to Orange on Feb 7, carparks in the two areas had emptied out by 50 to 70 per cent on the weekends of Feb 15 and 21.

By the Feb 29 weekend, the carpark vacancies had dropped to 20 per cent in Orchard.

Crowds remained steady in the suburban malls.

Said DBS: "Paranoia over Covid-19 seems to be lifting among Singaporeans, with good demand observed in food and beverage tenants at the Orchard malls."

At ION Orchard on Friday, several tenants said business has been improving. Mr Shah Azlan, a 26-year-old retail assistant at Uniqlo, said: "On the first week after Dorscon Orange, business was really bad. But today, it looks like it's picking up.

"It's not the best, but it's better. More customers, locals in particular, are buying items like our basic tops, and not just window shopping."

A spokesman for Jewel Changi Airport said it had a 50 per cent increase in footfall on the last weekend of February compared with earlier in the month.

A spokesman for Frasers Property Retail also said it has seen an uptick in traffic across its heartland malls, such as Causeway Point in Woodlands.

At Wisma Atria, the situation was slightly less positive, even as queues formed at bubble tea shops and some tenants reported slight improvements.

INCENTIVES

Singapore Retailers Association executive director Rose Tong told TNP: "Retailers did report that mall traffic has crept up in the past week and attribute this to the public's confidence in stepping out of their homes, incentivised by various promotions like free parking, value-added shopping deals and activities.

"However, sales are still muted and way below expectations. Retailers in tourist-reliant malls are especially affected."

coronavirus