At least 50 exhibitors who had paid to rent stalls at the Singapore Fashion Expo were left standing outside with their goods yesterday when the event was called off abruptly.
Furious exhibitors, who knew about the cancellation only when they saw a sign near Hall 5A of the Singapore Expo, called the police.
They had paid several hundred to a few thousand dollars to take part in the three-day event.
Some exhibitors said a staff member of Singapore Expo told them the event was cancelled because the organiser did not clear the remaining amount after paying a deposit.
The event was organised by Ideal Solution, according to the Singapore Expo website and newspaper advertisements.Repeated calls by The Straits Times to the listed contact number went unanswered yesterday.
But exhibitors said they received phone messages later in the day from a man called "Cabin Sng" at Ideal Solution, who said he would refund the money they had paid.
Mr Jack Lee, owner of a children's clothing store in Novena, was among those affected.
He said Mr Sng found his store through a Facebook ad and contacted him on Wednesday, inviting him to join the Singapore Fashion Expo.
He was asked to pay $720 for two booth spaces, but negotiated and paid $700, crediting the money to Mr Sng's account just hours after receiving his call.
"The event was posted on the Singapore Expo website, and I thought Singapore Expo is well known and reliable, so I believed Cabin," he said.
Mr Lee said the police arrived at the Singapore Expo around noon yesterday and took down the names and contact numbers of the exhibitors. The list had at least 50 names, he said.
According to Shin Min Daily News, more than 100 people were gathered outside the venue.
"The crowd spilled out of the building and reached near my shop," Ms Marjorie Domingo, 26, who works at KaffeePal cafe, which is near Hall 5A, told The Straits Times.
When contacted, a spokesman for Singapore Expo would only say: "As manager of the venue, we were regretfully unable to make the hall available to the organiser because Ideal Solution has failed to fulfil its contractual obligations."
The spokesman declined to comment further, citing confidentiality reasons.
Some exhibitors said they will wait a few days before deciding on the next course of action.
Ms Sabrina Gouw of Nardia Beauty Care said: "I will wait a few days to see if Cabin refunds the money as promised."
Additional reporting by Natalie Kuan and Chan Huan Jun