Fewer snacks on the table, but Singapore homes spruced up for CNY

Ms Steffi Ng with her husband Lee Wen Jie and their children at their Yishun home.
Ms Steffi Ng with her husband Lee Wen Jie and their children at their Yishun home.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Ms Steffi Ng usually buys seven tubs of snacks like pineapple tarts and almond cookies for Chinese New Year (CNY), but purchased only about three this year.

That is because with families allowed only eight unique visitors a day, she is afraid of wasting food.

Married with two children, aged three years and 13 months old, the 33-year-old training manager in a financial company said: "I'm scared we cannot finish the food. I just got enough (for the four of us)."

Although she will host fewer guests, her family will still be donning matching outfits on the first and second days of Chinese New Year. She said: "CNY is very different with Covid-19. So, I thought, why not channel some fun into dolling up the kids?"

Housewife Mabel Chew also bought fewer snacks this year. She skipped kueh bangkit and dried shrimp rolls, snacks she used to buy for her guests. She said: "This CNY, we're focusing more on what we enjoy eating, like bak kwa."

She previously spent about $400 on snacks, but spent only $200 this year.

Changing shopping habits

Their shopping habits, like those of other Chinese Singaporeans, have affected shops that sell festive food items.

A spokesman for Singapore Press Holdings and SPH Reit, which manage Paragon, The Clementi Mall and The Seletar Mall, said some tenants retailing festive food items may see lower demand due to fewer visitors expected during Chinese New Year.

But a CapitaLand spokesman said fashion and home decor retailers on their digital platform, such as The Sophia Label and Hooga, have seen sales triple as consumers prepare to spruce up their wardrobes and homes.

Restaurant service staff Ng Lee Kiang, 58, bought around 10 wall stickers of auspicious words and zodiac signs. She said: "We need to do something special to show that it is CNY. The purpose is not for other people to see but for ourselves, to brighten up the atmosphere."

Some consumers bought fewer new outfits as working from home has meant many unworn clothes.

Events manager Sheryl Phua, 40, who usually buys about eight tops and dresses for Chinese New Year, said: "I only bought about two pieces for myself since I have a lot of new unworn clothes."

For Mr Sean Goh, 40, new clothes mean a fresh start for the new year.

"It's the only time I refresh my wardrobe," said Mr Goh, who bought smart casual outfits that can be worn throughout the year.

Dr Fock Ee-ling, 39, founder and designer of fashion retail outlet, The Missing Piece, which sells modern cheongsams, said the clothes were kept more casual so they can be worn after the festivities. "That way, even if visitation plans end up getting canned, customers would still be able to imagine themselves wearing that piece on another occasion," she added.

Keeping spirits high

Still, there are people who have not let restrictions on the number of guests dampen their celebrations. Human resource manager Annie Lim, 49, is not expecting any guest this year, but she still stocked up on four cartons of soft drinks and more than eight tubs of cookies - about the same amount as when she had over 20 guests previously.

She said: "To buy lots of food and drinks to indulge in - that's the best we can do for ourselves."

Correction note: This story has been edited for accuracy.