No price hike at some businesses in Singapore this CNY, with some reducing surcharges

Ms Petrova Ang, owner of cheongsam shop Matsuzaki in Chinatown, is among those who will not be raising prices to avoid scaring off their customers. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Ms Petrova Ang, owner of cheongsam shop Matsuzaki in Chinatown, said her customers used to buy five to seven such dresses for the 15 days of Chinese New Year.

However, due to tighter restrictions on home visits this year, her customers have ended up buying only one or two dresses, halving her revenue from more than $1,000 a day to around $500.

Still, she and other businesses The Sunday Times spoke to said even though they are hard hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, they will not be raising prices to avoid scaring off their customers.

Ms Ang, 58, will continue to sell cheongsam tops at $35 to $39 a piece, and cheongsam dresses at $39 to $69 each.

Speaking in Mandarin, she said: "Many people are earning less now. Increasing the cost at this time is like adding fuel to the fire."

Lower surcharges

Hair and beauty salons typically implement a surcharge for their services about two weeks before Chinese New Year begins, as staff have to work overtime during the busy period.

But beauty salon Xin Lin Beauty, with branches located in Chinatown and Ang Mo Kio, might delay implementing a $10 surcharge on manicure and pedicure services, or even waive it completely.

It usually charges $38 to $48 for such services.

Its owner, Mrs Lau Yan Ni, 42, said: "Before Covid-19, we would have about 20 customers a day during Chinese New Year. Now, we have only about eight. There's no need for a surcharge to give as a bonus to the workers."

Other hair salons, like Azel and Jane Salon with branches in Sengkang and Buangkok, have reduced their surcharges from between $5 and $15 to between $3 and $10.

Meanwhile, Charms Hair Studio in Chinatown removed the additional charge on chemical services such as perming and rebonding.

Its owner and hairstylist, Ms Chen Jia Yin, 35, said its customer base has shrunk by about 40 per cent compared with previous years.

"The cost of a hair perm is already quite high. Additional costs might make it hard to afford now," said Ms Chen, who charges $59 to $138 for a perm.

Ms Chen Jia Yin, owner of Charms Hair Studio, attending to a customer at People's Park Complex on Jan 29, 2021. The hairstylist said the salon's customer base has shrunk by about 40 per cent compared with previous years. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Stable demand for oranges

Supermarkets have maintained the prices of mandarin oranges - with some even lowering them.

A spokesman for FairPrice said the supply and prices of mandarin oranges have remained stable, and it expects demand to pick up closer to Chinese New Year.

Similarly, a Sheng Siong spokesman said: "Mandarin oranges are a staple for Chinese New Year as they are auspicious and symbolise good luck, so there is still good demand for them despite house visit restrictions."

A muted Chinese New Year is expected this year, with households allowed a total of only eight visitors each day.

Sheng Siong added that its prices are lower compared with last year due to a better harvest.

Mr Elson Liaw, senior manager of Siji Trading, a fruit and produce importer for supermarkets, said the harvest was good this year due to better weather conditions.

"The quality of oranges this year is actually better," he said.

"But shipping costs have increased and transit time is unstable because of Covid-19."

Nurseries absorbing costs

Meanwhile, six nurseries told The Sunday Times that their businesses appear to be unaffected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Mr Mok Keng Houng, a consultant at Ji Mei Flower in Thomson, said he expects healthy sales and even hopes for growth this Chinese New Year.

"I believe that since most people are staying at home, there's a demand for products to brighten up their place," said Mr Mok.

One such customer is Ms Rita Chang, 40, who owns a beauty business and usually travels during Chinese New Year.

"Since I can't travel, I might as well put in the extra effort to make things look a bit better, make myself feel happier. People still want to have that spirit of celebrating - you just can't do away with that."

People shopping for plants ahead of Chinese New Year at Ji Mei Flower in Thomson on Jan 29, 2021. Some nurseries told The Sunday Times that they were absorbing some additional costs, such as those incurred due to a rise in transportation costs, to maintain the prices of most plants. ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

But the prices of some festive plants that are usually imported from Malaysia and China have increased slightly due to a rise in transportation costs.

For example, the cost of a 1.2m-tall pot of Four Season Lime, imported from China, has risen from $88 to $98 at one of the nurseries The Sunday Times visited.

The nurseries said they were absorbing some additional costs to maintain the prices of most plants.

A spokesman for Bedok Garden and Landscape said: "In difficult times, like the current Covid-19 situation, we are trying to maintain our prices as a show of appreciation towards our customers."

But for Ms Ang and her cheongsam shop, not raising prices was the least of her concerns.

Not being able to travel to Guangzhou amid travel restrictions to buy fabric could prove disastrous for her 22-year-old business. She says this is especially worrying as she does not have enough cloth to make cheongsams for next year.

"If the travel restrictions continue till next year, I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't know if the shop will still be around," she said.


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