Why It Matters

Time for Great Singapore Shake-up

The Great Singapore Sale (GSS) got a new official card, a longer sales period and a more specific target audience - tourists from China. Still, it did not get shoppers to spend more.

Now, its organiser, the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), has said it is reassessing the direction of the 23-year-old sale and plans to discuss with the tourism authority if there is even a point in continuing it.

This comes after three consecutive years of decline in retail sales during the GSS period, which took place from June 3 to Aug 14 this year.

Latest official statistics show that in July, retail sales excluding motor vehicles fell 3 per cent, compared with the same month last year.

This follows a similar dip in June's figure, which was 3 per cent lower than last year's.

To be fair to the SRA - and as pointed out by experts - the slowing economy and weaker consumer sentiments were likely key factors in this year's poor showing.

An obvious solution? Give steeper discounts, as suggested by some readers. But this would eat into retailers' profits and would not be sustainable for their businesses in the long run.

Experts and shoppers have raised other ideas on how to revive the excitement for the annual sale, from holding it twice a year - one for tourists, one for locals - to lowering charges for excess baggage at the airport.

Straits Times readers said the event could also tie in with the annual F1 race, feature a mascot, and have a "pasar malam" or night-market atmosphere.

But is a revamp enough to save the GSS, and the retail industry, when fundamental problems persist?

Experts have pointed out problems with Singapore's shopping environment, such as a lack of differentiation in malls, which mostly carry similar brands and food-and-beverage offerings.

Perhaps retailers, too, should reassess how they can stand out from their competitors and attract shoppers - whether the GSS continues or not.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2016, with the headline 'Time for Great S'pore Shake-up'. Print Edition | Subscribe