Queues manageable as shoppers return, say malls and retailers

People queueing up to use the SafeEntry check-in and check-out system on June 19, 2020.
People queueing up to use the SafeEntry check-in and check-out system on June 19, 2020.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Malls and retailers breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as shoppers streamed in for most of the day, heralding the start of phase two of Singapore's reopening.

With safety measures in place, including limits on the number of customers and use of the SafeEntry check-in system, most malls and stores said the queues were manageable. Customers also took the precautionary steps in stride.

A spokesman for shopping mall Nex said: "It is definitely been heartening to see the return of shoppers to Nex. Despite the perpetual incoming flow of shoppers from early in the morning, there was no massive bottleneck or long waiting time in queues to enter or exit the mall."

Mall operator Frasers Property Retail said human traffic at its malls, including Causeway Point and Bedok Point, was double that of earlier this week in phase one, when retailers were not allowed to open their physical stores.

Its spokesman noted yesterday that "shoppers are following the safe management principles while shopping and dining at our malls".

More entry and exit points will be opened for a smoother flow of traffic if needed, he added. "We are also working closely with our tenants to ensure they carry out the required health and safety precautions."

Electronics and furniture retailer Courts saw a steady flow of shoppers at all its 14 stores. At its megastore in Tampines, some people were waiting in line even before it opened at 10am. By 11am, about 30 shoppers were queueing to enter.

Mr Matthew Hoang, country chief executive of Courts Singapore, said sales were more than double that on the same day last year.

"We observed many customers coming in with a clear intention to buy, and they were focused on what items to buy."

"This is encouraging as it indicates Singaporeans are heeding the call to behave responsibly by not spending significant amounts of time browsing," he added.

At fashion chain H&M, floor markings for queue management and signs to remind people to keep at least 1m apart helped ensure customers followed safe distancing rules. Its stores also made public announcements to reinforce the safe distancing message.

 
 

H&M had safety protocols for trying on clothes. Each customer is allowed to try on four pieces, down from seven. Alternate fitting rooms are open for use, and they are sanitised after each use.

Clothes tried on but unsold are steamed and disinfected before they are returned to the shop floor.

Other safety measures taken by retailers include checking the temperature of customers and staff, ensuring that shoppers wear masks, making hand sanitisers readily available and cleaning common areas regularly.

The hunger for beauty services appears especially acute.

Waxing salon chain Strip, which is owned by Spa Esprit Group, said that demand is overwhelming. It is fully booked until mid-July.

 
 
 

Ms Samantha Ong, marketing director of the group's beauty division, said: "We have received over 2,000 messages in the past few days as everyone is making appointment bookings since the phase two reopening was announced earlier this week."

The safety of its staff and customers, however, remains a top priority. Ms Ong said the company has a strict 10-step hygiene protocol that includes requiring employees to mask up, don gloves and sanitise all tools, equipment and workstations with hospital-grade disinfectant before and after every customer.

She added: "Our employees are very relieved to be back at work after waiting for more than two months. It is like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2020, with the headline 'Queues manageable as shoppers return, say malls and retailers'. Print Edition | Subscribe