Retailers at CNY bazaars hit by triple whammy

Chinese New Year bazaars, like this one in Chinatown yesterday, have been affected by the wet weather, as well as the gloomy economic outlook and the festival coming so soon after the Gregorian new year.
Chinese New Year bazaars, like this one in Chinatown yesterday, have been affected by the wet weather, as well as the gloomy economic outlook and the festival coming so soon after the Gregorian new year.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Businesses at Chinese New Year festive bazaars have been hit this year by a triple whammy - wet weather, a poor economic outlook and the festival's proximity to the Gregorian new year.

Mr Ang Cheng Hoy, 70, who sells festive decorations such as God of Fortune figurines in Chong Pang, said takings have fallen by 20 per cent from last year, as customers tighten their belts. More are doing so as bonuses are down, and the economic outlook is gloomy.

Heavy rain yesterday morning also dampened sales, but Mr Ang is optimistic that business will pick up in the four days before the start of Chinese New Year on Saturday.

"If customers don't come today, they will come tomorrow because they have to buy decorations for the new year," he said.

Nearby, two large tents selling festive lanterns and couplets attracted few customers. Owner Ker Yong Sen, 35, estimated that takings would fall by 70 per cent to 80 per cent if the rain continues.

PEOPLE STILL BUY, BUT LESS

People do buy, but they have been buying less because of the poor economy. And these days, young people don't buy decorations any more; my customers are mostly the older ones.

MR KER YONG SEN, who sells festive lanterns and couplets.

 

The weather forecast is not rosy - the last two weeks of this month are expected to be wetter than the first fortnight, though the month's overall rainfall is expected to be slightly below normal.

Business was already poorer than expected, said Mr Ker. "People do buy, but they have been buying less because of the poor economy. And these days, young people don't buy decorations any more; my customers are mostly the older ones."

That the start of the Chinese New Year is within a month of the Gregorian one also spells bad news for retailers, as families may have to spend on things like new school supplies and less on other items.

Over at Chinatown, Ms Guo Xiao Cui, 34, who sells children's clothes at a festive bazaar in Temple Street, estimated that the crowds have halved because of the rain.

But rain or not, Madam Tan Kok Wah, 63, took the train from her home in Bukit Panjang to a bazaar next to People's Park Complex yesterday, where she shopped for Chinese couplets. Waving away concerns about the rain, she said: "My sandals are a bit wet, but I am a hawker, I am used to wet floors. It is my day off, so I wanted to experience the festive atmosphere here."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline 'Retailers at CNY bazaars hit by triple whammy'. Print Edition | Subscribe