Business still poor during Singapore GP despite promotions

Not many shoppers visited Marina Square yesterday, in line with a trend over the years of people giving the Marina Bay area a wide berth during the F1 week because 
of road closures.
Not many shoppers visited Marina Square yesterday, in line with a trend over the years of people giving the Marina Bay area a wide berth during the F1 week because of road closures.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Five years after Marina Bay shopping malls first complained of poor business during the Singapore Grand Prix, sales in and around the circuit are still slow.

Some retailers at Raffles City, CityLink Mall, Marina Square, Esplanade and Suntec City say takings plunge by as much as 50 per cent during race week, as regular shoppers stay away.

The attendance was 87,509 for this year's F1 race, but even with the reopening of Suntec City, sales have not revved up.

"There are more people but they're browsing, not buying," said assistant store supervisor Liah Jamal, 45, who works at Accessorize in Raffles City.

Levi's at CityLink had not had a single sale when The Straits Times visited at 3pm yesterday. On Wednesday, the daily total was a miserly $37 - a record low, said part-time sales assistant Muhd Faizul Kamsani, 20.

The problem is not new. Since the first race in 2008, shoppers have given Marina Bay a wide berth due to the six-day road closures during the race week.

Promotions such as shopping vouchers and discounts have not seemed to work.

The Esplanade, which is open only to F1 ticket-holders, is also taking a hit again.

Some shops have decided to close during the weekend while others have shortened operating hours.

"We have learnt over the years that business may dip during this period," said Ravi Sivalingam, the Esplanade's director of operations.

But food and beverage outlets are not complaining.

Takings at Raffles City's Thai Express were about $12,000 on Saturday, an increase from the $8,000 to $10,000 on typical weekends, said its manager Rahman Sharif, 41.

Over at Japanese restaurant Osaka Ohsho, its manager Uzziel Sanjuan, 23, said business had gone up by 20 per cent.

"Between 4pm and 9pm, the place is crowded," she added.

Dr Cafe Coffee at CityLink saw takings increase by 20 per cent, said its supervisor Muhd Asri, 22.

The restaurants at Marina Square's new dining wing also reported better business during dinnertime.

Amos Tan, a marketing and retail lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic's business school, said malls can do more, such as give out discount vouchers which are valid over the F1 period.

"But if people don't want to carry their shopping bags to watch the F1, then it's going to be tough," he added.

mellinjm@sph.com.sg