Heartlands Festival to return for second edition this year, following success of first

Mr Anthony Low, chairman of the Boon Lay Hawkers' Association at the closing ceremony of the Heartlands Festival on Feb 20, which was also attended by Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling. PHOTO: HEARTLANDS FESTIVAL

SINGAPORE - An initiative to get people to spend more time and money in the heartland has plans to return for a second edition later this year following its success during a three-month run that ended on Sunday (Feb 20).

The Heartlands Festival, launched in November last year, helped retailers see a 20 per cent increase in footfall. More than $330,000 was spent in the heartlands, tracked through the festival’s lucky draw submissions.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling, guest of honour at the closing ceremony on Sunday at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar, said that launching the festival two weeks before the distribution of the Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers helped to catalyse spending in neighbourhood centres.

With shopping and eating contests, the inaugural Heartlands Festival also saw open-top buses taking shoppers on tours in the heartland, all in the name of celebrating Singapore's 40,000 heartland merchants, hawkers and wet-market stall operators.

Organised by the Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore and supported by the Federation of Merchants' Associations, Singapore, and Enterprise Singapore, the festival also encourages businesses to offer e-payment options.

Ms Low said that there has been an increase in digitalisation efforts among heartland shops since the launch of Heartlands Go Digital in October 2020.

"The past two years have been difficult for everyone including our heartland shops and hawkers, and these shops also understand that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to move away from manual, paper-based and in-person types of transactions," she added.

Mr Anthony Low, owner of hawker stall Xin Sheng Ngoh Hiong at Boon Lay Place Market and Food Village, and chairman of the Boon Lay Hawkers' Association, said that he walked around the hawker centre in 2020 to encourage everyone to set up digital payments.

"At the time, Covid-19 cases were quite bad so we wanted to make payments contactless so everyone can be safe," he added.

As at today, more than 85 per cent of heartland shops, or 14,500 shops, have adopted e-payment. Fifty-six per cent, or 9,500 of heartland shops, have adopted digital channels and platforms such as Carousell or Google.

Heartlands Go Digital vendor Nets reported that during the Heartlands Festival period from November to February, it saw a 7 per cent increase in payment value and 14 per cent increase in transaction count.

Senior Minister of State for National Development and Foreign Affairs Sim Ann, who was also guest of honour at Sunday's event, said it is also important to achieve a balance of preserving the tradition of heartland businesses, and the adoption of innovation and digitalisation.

She added: "Otherwise what we may fear is that the younger generations will choose to spend elsewhere and choose other places to start up (businesses)."

Mr Low said that the Heartlands Festival helped encourage Singaporeans to re-explore the places that they thought they knew.

"Although most of us know of places like Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh, we never really go into depth to explore and understand what these places have to offer," he said.

"The festival provided a chance to find hidden gems."

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