Great Singapore Sale to be shortened, revamped with art and entertainment

The Great Singapore Sale began as a month-long event in 1994 and quickly became Singapore's biggest retail event. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The Great Singapore Sale (GSS) will be shortened from 10 weeks to one month when it returns next year and expand beyond its focus on discounts.

The changes are part of efforts to revamp the event that observers say has lost its lustre in recent years.

Announcing the change on Friday (Sept 21), Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) president R. Dhinakaran said next year's event will focus on the "sensory and social experience", showcasing the Singapore story through a fusion of art, technology and entertainment with retail and food and beverage.

The SRA, which organises GSS, will also be extending more support to its members and the retail community in the coming year, such as by helping businesses to adopt retail technology solutions that will be partially funded by government agency Enterprise Singapore, Mr Dhinakaran said at SRA's annual retail awards gala dinner at the Raffles City Convention Centre on Friday.

In an e-mail interview with The Straits Times earlier in the day, he said that having an extended duration for the sale had worked well in earlier years to capture a wider base of tourists and locals.

The GSS, which is in its 25th year, began as a month-long event in 1994 and quickly became Singapore's biggest retail event, adding on more weeks over the years.

But changing consumer behaviour, competition from online players and feedback from retailers and stakeholders prompted the SRA to review both its length and content, said Mr Dhinakaran.

It is currently in discussions with other trade associations to help invigorate next year's GSS with new experiences, and make it "a national event that transcends sales and discounts", he said.

This comes after SRA's recent attempt to boost GSS with the launch of the GoSpree mobile app in 2017 which helped to arrest several years of declining sales but did little to revive excitement about the event.

There are plans to add more features to the app, which offers deals and discounts through e-coupons.

Sales for this year's GSS, which ran from June 8 to Aug 12, appear to have been flat compared to last year.

Retail sales excluding motor vehicles registered a marginal 0.2 per cent growth in both June and July compared to the corresponding period last year, according to the latest available figures from the Singapore Department of Statistics.

Retailers The Straits Times spoke to welcomed the move to shake things up.

Mrs Helen Khoo, executive director of Wing Tai Retail, which operates nearly 100 stores in Singapore under brands such as Adidas, Topshop and G2000, said that having a shorter, more focused event would be better for fashion retailers in particular.

"The prolonged GSS period is difficult for us as it sits between our normal seasonal events", which may give shoppers the impression of perpetual sales, she said.

"This year in particular, we are finding that shoppers are generally having sale fatigue, with thinning traffic and purchases."

"Shoppers are looking for newness and variety, not prolonged sale events," said Mrs Khoo.

Despite listing nearly all of its brands on the GoSpree app and supporting other GSS initiatives, overall sales for Wing Tai during the 10-week period this year were "flat to a low single-digit decline" compared to last year, she said.

Having cross-marketing with other food and beverage or entertainment events and outdoor engagements along Orchard Road could also create a more festive-like atmosphere and boost next year's event, she added.

Mr Kelvyn Chee, managing director of Decks which owns brands such as M)phosis, Surfers Paradise and Island Shop, said June is no longer a big month for retail sales as GSS has stopped moving the needle.

It has become indistinguishable from the many other sales events held throughout the year, he said.

"In Singapore, as a retailer, if you don't put a sale sign outside the store, no one will come in."

"This is something we need to address: What is so great about GSS if every other day there is a sale?"

Shortening the event is a way to make it more exclusive, although reviving interest will require the help of shopping malls. The retailers will also need to relook their digital marketing and promotion strategies, he said.

Ms Esther Ho, director at Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Business Management, said a shorter GSS may draw more participation from retailers, though it may not be enough to address "fundamental issues with the current mode of GSS".

"It needs to be more targeted in its approach (and) do more in data analytics, drawing consumer insights from it," she said.

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