Coronavirus pandemic

Move to a new location on hold but rent waiver a relief

Ms Emiko Nakamura, founder and designer of emgallery, sorting through different fabrics in her home studio while her shop remains shut. She had to store her textiles and other products at home for nearly five months, while waiting for renovations on
Ms Emiko Nakamura, founder and designer of emgallery, sorting through different fabrics in her home studio while her shop remains shut. She had to store her textiles and other products at home for nearly five months, while waiting for renovations on her new shop to resume. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

Handcrafted textile designer emgallery was supposed to have moved to a new location in April.

But when Malaysia came under a movement control order in March because of the Covid-19 pandemic, emgallery's contractor could not complete the renovation works as scheduled because most of its workers and building materials were from across the Causeway.

Further disrupting the move, Singapore's circuit breaker kicked in on April 7 and lasted till June 1.

That meant founder and designer Emiko Nakamura had to store her textiles and other products in her home for nearly five months, while waiting for renovations to resume.

"Our renovations started in mid-March and were supposed to have finished by April 7, but it didn't go as planned. But at least we managed to move out of our previous location in Dempsey Road before things spiralled down," said Ms Nakamura, a Singapore permanent resident.

"The earliest we can move to our new location is probably in July. Renovation will take two weeks to complete if there is no further disruption. After that, we have to start putting in fixtures, which will take another week."

It will be at least four months with no revenue for her, and rent obligations at her new shop began in April. But the new Covid 19 (Temporary Measures) (Amendment) Act, passed on June 5, will likely bring some reprieve.

Eligible tenants and subtenants in the food and beverage and commercial sectors will enjoy four months of rental waiver from April through July - two months each from the Government and the landlord. This is as long as tenants' leases are in force on April 1.

"The rent waivers should cover us. We paid our April rent in March, as required by our contract. And we couldn't open our shop in May, so we should be entitled to the relief," Ms Nakamura said.

 
 

She said she hopes to have more clarity about the relief and an update on when her new shop can open in the second phase of the economy's reopening, at a meeting her landlord is having with tenants next week.

The pandemic and ensuing social distance requirements also means she has to rethink how she will design her shop and other aspects of doing business.

"We can't assume that customers will shop the way they did before Covid-19. Tourists aren't coming back any time soon. And we have to ensure safe entry and safe distancing for our walk-in shoppers," Ms Nakamura said.

"We are also exploring selling online via Facebook shop or Instagram shop."

 
 

Already, the travel restrictions in recent months meant she has had to e-mail designs and send fabric samples via courier to her weavers in Cambodia.

"We managed to keep production going in Cambodia because my weavers were working on their looms at home. I used to travel once every three months to source and get yarn. But we managed to get around it," Ms Nakamura said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2020, with the headline 'Move to a new location on hold but rent waiver a relief'. Subscribe