Illegal hawkers taking away business, say Lucky Plaza shops

Bags of items at what appeared to be a makeshift stall outside Richmond Park condo near Lucky Plaza yesterday. From as early as July last year, mall retailers have noticed itinerant sellers hawking items out of bags.
Bags of items at what appeared to be a makeshift stall outside Richmond Park condo near Lucky Plaza yesterday. From as early as July last year, mall retailers have noticed itinerant sellers hawking items out of bags.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Retailers at Lucky Plaza mall are up in arms over what appears to be an illegal flea market that has sprung up near the building and is affecting their businesses.

While the authorities have punished some illegal hawkers, retailers say the problem still persists and hope that more can be done.

Lucky Plaza in Orchard Road is a popular hangout for Filipino domestic workers on Sundays, with many having picnics nearby.

But from as early as July last year, retailers have noticed the itinerant sellers, mainly women with several large bags of clothes and shoes, selling items out of the bags. The number of such "stalls" has grown to as many as 10.

Retailers, particularly those selling dried foods, cosmetics, fashion items and phones, said their sales revenue has dropped by 20 per cent to 50 per cent over the past four to six months, and they believe this is due to the illegal hawkers.

Mr K.D. Chan, 45, whose family runs a shop selling Filipino products including toiletries and canned food in Lucky Plaza, told The Straits Times: "The illegal hawkers are getting bolder - they bring bags of brand new shoes and T-shirts to sell. There are even manicure and haircutting services provided."

He and about 15 other retailers who run 20 to 30 shops in the mall are planning a petition for more enforcement action to be taken.

Another retailer, who wanted to be known only as Mr O.J. 49, said: "We're not biased against any race or nationality. Many of the Lucky Plaza business owners are Filipinos or Singaporeans married to Filipinos. All we seek is a law-abiding, level playing field in business."

Rental costs in Lucky Plaza could be as much as $15,000 a month, or $30,000 to $40,000 a month for shops on the ground floor.

When a reporter from Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily News visited two Sundays ago, people seen with the large bags told her that they were not selling the goods, but had purchased them and were planning to send them home to the Philippines.

Yesterday, The Straits Times saw two makeshift stalls with at least seven large bags each - one unattended and behind Tong Building, next to Lucky Plaza; and the other outside Richmond Park condominium nearby, where customers appeared to be buying shoes.

Mr Chan said he usually sees five or six such informal stalls spread out along the street on Sundays, and the smaller number yesterday was due to the Shin Min report as well as articles on some social media sites.

Replying to queries, the National Environment Agency said it had received 10 reports of unregulated street hawking activity outside Lucky Plaza since January.

"Checks have been carried out and enforcement actions were taken against five foreigners who were illegally hawking clothes and apparel," said its spokesman.

People caught hawking illegally may have their goods seized and be fined $300, $400 and $500 for the first, second and third offences respectively. The fourth and subsequent offences will draw prosecution in court.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'Illegal hawkers taking away business, say Lucky Plaza shops'. Print Edition | Subscribe