Orchard all out to spur festive spending

This year's light-up mixes modern colours with a traditional theme.
This year's light-up mixes modern colours with a traditional theme.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Retailers offer deeper discounts, new mobile app amid slower sales

Day and night glitter on longer stretch of road

Under all the bright lights and glitter, Christmas is a tough season for retailers. Every year they face challenges from various quarters, said Mr Steven Goh, the executive director of the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba), such as increasingly fierce competition from suburban malls and e-commerce, and falling tourist numbers.

"It's a dicey time for retailers," said Mr Goh, adding that discounts would be deeper this Christmas from its members, of which it has 132, including major players like the FJ Benjamin Group and department stores like Isetan and Metro.

To drum up interest during what he calls "the golden month of business for Orchard Road", members are dangling discounts of up to 70 per cent this Christmas season, up from last year's 50 per cent.

Retailers are hoping for a larger piece of a shrinking pie.

  • OTHER ORCHARD ROAD HIGHLIGHTS

  • What: Singing performances organised by Celebrate Christmas in Singapore, a group that brings people together for mass carolling

    When: Dec 18-23, 7pm to 10pm

    Where: In front of Ion Orchard and Wisma Atria

    What: Students carolling and gigs by jazz bands

    When: Saturday, 6:30pm to 9:15pm

    Where: Outside Paragon and Orchard Gateway

    What: Volunteers will give out multi-coloured light sticks and organisers have pledged $1 to the Community Chest for every light stick distributed

    When: Saturday, from 7pm

    Where: Outside Mandarin Gallery

    What: Walk under Christmas lights on vehicle-free Orchard Road. There will be performances, Santa Claus mascots and 500 movie tickets to be won

    When: Dec 5, 6:30pm to 10:30pm

    Where: Orchard Road

    What: Savour tea-infused mocktails brewed at a special pop-up store by The 1872 Clipper Tea Co

    When: Dec 4-20

    Where: Along the sidewalk between Ion Orchard and Wisma Atria

    What: Spend at least $300 using a MasterCard at participating Orchard Road malls and get a $30 shopping voucher on a first-come, first-served basis

    When: From Nov 14

    What: Eight malls will vie to be named Best Dressed Building. Vote on the OneOrchard mobile app

    When: Nov 20 to Dec 5

Last year, 15.1 million tourists visited Singapore, a 3.1 per cent drop from 2013, and the first since 2009.

In the first half of this year, tourism receipts slumped 12 per cent year on year to $10.5 billion against a 3 per cent decline in visitor arrivals to 7.3 million.

To help brick-and-mortar members combat competition from e-commerce, Orba will launch a free mobile application, OneOrchard, on Nov 20. Featuring an e-store, it will let shoppers download vouchers and make purchases from the street's biggest brands before heading down to the stores to collect their wares.

It is also banking on its annual light-up to attract visitors.

Christmas On A Great Street will stretch 3.38km this year from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura - up from last year's 2.88km - and will start at 6.30pm every day from tomorrow - after its launch by President Tony Tan Keng Yam - to Jan 3.

The light-up's modern colour scheme of neon green, fuschia pink, light blue and silver will give a twist to its traditional theme, revolving around classic Christmas motifs like bells, baubles, stars and pine cones.

Designed by local artiste Dick Lee and designer Yang De Rong, the light-up will have special structures - including a 4m-high Christmas gift box, Christmas trees and mini arches - at various points along the street.

Lamp-posts will also shimmer with reflective sequins in the day - a detail that almost did not happen because of concern by authorities that they would distract motorists.

They consented when Orba agreed not to install them near traffic light junctions and only on sidewalks.

Last year's light-up attracted 5.36 million visitors, a number Orba hopes to match this year.

Ms Helen Khoo, executive director of WingTai Asia, which has more than 100 stores here across brands that include Topshop and Karen Millen, is keeping her fingers crossed.

"The climate is unpredictable now; it all depends on whether you have strong products and promotions to get customers' attention. They have so many choices nowadays," she said, adding that cross-brand promotions will be created to attract shoppers.

There will be better deals this year, said Mr R. Dhinakaran, managing director of Jay Gee Melwani Group, which runs jeans chain Levis and health retailer Holland & Barrett here. "We want to capture the business," he said, noting it has been slow this year at his 12 Orchard Road stores.

Some, like Skin Inc, are confident of doing well.

The skincare chain, with two outlets in Ion Orchard and Scotts Square, is expecting a better Christmas this year than last.

It would be in line with their performance this year, which has grown 30 per cent over the same period last year, said owner Sabrina Tan, 41.

"Christmas is our peak season, and we are confident sales will be swift," she said, adding that the brand has a strong social media strategy which includes letting shoppers customise their own skincare products, as well as share product testimonials online.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2015, with the headline 'Orchard all out to spur festive spending'. Print Edition | Subscribe