Retailers hit hard by e-scooter ban

Mobot managing director Ifrey Lai says he has about 3,000 e-scooters, worth $1.5 million, languishing in his warehouse in Ubi. They have been paid for and cannot be returned to the manufacturer. After the footpath ban was announced, he adds, about 20
Mobot managing director Ifrey Lai says he has about 3,000 e-scooters, worth $1.5 million, languishing in his warehouse in Ubi. They have been paid for and cannot be returned to the manufacturer. After the footpath ban was announced, he adds, about 20 to 30 customers brought their e-scooters back to his firm to ask for refunds.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

They are left high and dry, stuck with stockpile and money invested in certification for devices

A $7 million package that has been rolled out will help food delivery riders with electric scooters switch to bicycles, power-assisted bicycles (PABs) or personal mobility aids, but e-scooter retailers are still left high and dry.

One retailer told The Sunday Times he has $1.5 million worth of e-scooters that he suddenly cannot sell. Another firm has been hit so hard it is closing all three of its sales outlets, while yet another retailer said he may have to retrench staff.

They expressed their surprise at the ban on e-scooters on footpaths that was announced last Monday and took effect the next day.

"This is all very sudden. We are in shock," said Mr Ifrey Lai, managing director of Mobot, one of the major e-scooter retailers here.

About 3,000 e-scooters, worth $1.5 million, now languish in Mobot's warehouse in Ubi. They have been paid for and cannot be returned to the manufacturer.

Overseas export options are costly and limited, said retailers.

The $7 million trade-in scheme announced by the Government, which could see delivery firms like Grab working with retailers to buy electric bicycles or PABs and other alternatives, is unlikely to help, they said. This is especially so, as the scheme will last only until the end of the year, giving retailers little time to react.

Mr Lai said stringent regulatory checks required for the devices, in which retailers have to send individual e-bikes for inspection, and the lack of demand for them, had meant that retailers have not stockpiled those devices.

Kernel Scooter's general manager Jay Jin said: "The main reason retailers are suffering is due to existing inventories and money invested in getting devices the UL-2272 certification. Many retailers will go bankrupt very soon."

 

Many had stockpiled UL-2272 e-scooters, confident that demand would surge.

This was after the authorities announced that only UL-2272 e-scooters that are registered can be used in Singapore from July 1.

There are about 100,000 registered e-scooters here and most of them are not UL-2272 certified. Certified devices pose a much lower risk of catching fire, but they are also more expensive to produce, making them less attractive in many markets.

Mobot's Mr Lai said that after the footpath ban was announced, about 20 to 30 customers brought their e-scooters back to his firm in the last week to ask for refunds.

"It is unlikely that demand will rise in the near future. It may rise only three to five years later when the (cycling network) infrastructure grows," he said.

A retailer, who wanted to be known only as Dannis, said he plans to close all three of his e-scooter shops as the business is no longer viable. He expects to lose around $100,000.

 
 
 

Kernel Scooter, which has about 400 e-scooters in its inventory, had zero sales last week, said Mr Jin.

"The announcement caught us off-guard. It comes right before the Singles Day sales tomorrow for which we had brought in so many extra e-scooters."

The president of the PMD Retailers Association of Singapore, Mr Wilson Seng, said: "There was no consultation and no warning given to us (by the Land Transport Authority). This week has been a nightmare."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 10, 2019, with the headline 'Retailers hit hard by e-scooter ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe