Queues have already begun to form at popular bak kwa stores in Chinatown. The good news is that waiting times are not stretching over an hour. However, retailers warned that the wait times, along with prices, are set to rise soon.
A check by The Sunday Times over the past three days found that customers queued between 15 and 30 minutes. Those lining up said they were buying the barbecued pork slices early to beat the crowd.
Human resource manager Lois Teo made her annual trek to Lim Chee Guan's New Bridge Road outlet on Thursday to buy the snack for friends and family. "Now is the best time to buy because the queues are short and the quality is better," said the 42-year-old.
Said data analyst Francis Chu, 32, who bought 4kg of bak kwa from Kim Joo Guan the same day for friends: "It can keep for quite long, and if you reheat it in the oven, it tastes just as good."
He added that he was in the queue to beat the price hike.
Retailers usually increase their prices in the lead-up to Chinese New Year to pay for extra labour and material costs. But as of
yesterday, two popular chains - Bee Cheng Hiang and Fragrance - had yet to raise their prices. At Bee Cheng Hiang, a kilogram of barbecued pork cost $55, while it was $52 at Fragrance.
But at least four retailers with outlets in Chinatown have raised their prices. At Kim Hua Guan, 1kg now costs $54, up by $2 from Friday. Prices may continue to go up by increments of $2 depending on stock, said shop assistant Andy Ho.
As of Friday, Kim Joo Guan in South Bridge Road was selling bak kwa at $52 per kg, a dollar more than last year's festive period. Owner Arthur Ong attributed the hike to higher sugar and labour costs but said there will be no further increases, adding: "We don't want to overcharge people, especially now that times are not really good."
Kim Hock Guan, which has two outlets, is selling the barbecued meat at $55 per kg, compared with the usual $52 during other months.
At Lim Chee Guan's three outlets, the price went up by $4 to $54 in the first week of the year and will be further increased closer to Jan 28. "It may be about $1 or $2 more than last year as costs keep rising," said owner Rod Lim.