May 2021 at a mall in Singapore before restrictions tighten over concerns over spike in Covid-19 coronavirus cases.
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SINGAPORE – Singapore’s brick and mortar stores have been hit hard by Covid-19 and retailers have seen a sharp drop in sales due to Covid restrictions, according to a retail organization in the country.
According to Rose Tong, executive director of the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), a nonprofit with 420 members from areas such as fashion, electronics, beauty and wellness, as well as food retail and supermarkets.
With each round of tightened restrictions, sales fell between 50 and 80%, she told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia on Thursday.
Singapore again imposed stricter Covid-19 restrictions on Thursday as the number of Covid cases has risen due to multiple clusters in karaoke bars as well as wet markets. The tightened measures – which include banning food services and limiting public gatherings to two – will last through August 18.
According to the Ministry of Health, there have been 170 new cases of Covid-19, including 162 locally transmitted infections. The number of new cases in the community has grown rapidly, rising from 127 cases the week before to 883 cases in the past week, the ministry report said.
As a result of the ongoing restrictions, buyer traffic has decreased significantly – but retailers are still paying the full rental cost, she said.
“We hope landlords are more proactive and take on a fair share of the burden,” she said, adding that some business owners are asking their landlords for assistance in offering rental discounts.
Switch to online sales
On Friday, the government announced a $ 1.1 billion Singapore dollar ($ 808 million) relief package to help businesses and workers affected by recent restrictions.
This included an employment promotion program for affected sectors such as restaurants and gyms, as well as for retail and entertainment sectors.
Other measures include helping local retailers to bring local online trading platforms on board.
During the June-July Great Singapore Sale shopping festival, SRA partnered with e-commerce website Lazada to increase online sales. This helped increase sales and there was a high level of acceptance for home delivery, Tong said.
While companies have started adopting digital strategies to improve sales, there are still many challenges ahead, she added.
“We are facing very intense global market competition from markets around the world. The cost of supplies and goods is high,” she said.
Online retail accounts for less than 20% of brick and mortar store sales, Tong said.
The members of the SRA collectively hire more than 80,000 workers and have annual sales of more than 32 billion Singapore dollars ($ 23.5 billion), according to the website.