Once hailed as the most important event of the year for many a poor student, thrifty shopper, and bargain hunter, the Great Singapore Sale (GSS) is dying – or at the very least, changing. And everyone saw it coming.
A stroll down Orchard Road in Singapore during this period half a decade back would see throngs of shoppers carrying large bags of clothing and household items. During this year’s edition, which started on 9 June and runs until 13 August 2017, it is apparent that the crowds have visibly thinned, even during weekends.
Singaporeans love bargains, and it’s simple to make us buy things we don’t need if there’s a good deal. $10 for a sandwich press, 60% off on a pack of scented trash bags? We’re sold. The problems: as the years pass, stores and malls here are mounting fewer or less attractive sales during the GSS.
Blame it on the economy and dismal retail landscape because even our favourite tourists, if only for their purportedly flamboyant spending habits, the mainland Chinese have been reported to be spending less. As locals and visitors alike cut down on shopping dates and impulsive buys, poor revenue mean that retail store closures are hardly news these days.
It’s funny, since on the flip side you see a constant influx of malls springing up in the heartlands, particularly on the west side of the island – NeWEST Shopping Mall and Hillion Mall? – and some in the Central Business District. They’re mostly cookie-cutter, with familiar names like Uniqlo, Innisfree, and Muji. And yet vacancies at shopping malls are ever increasing, and at its highest since 2006.
British chain New Look and French menswear brand Celio exited the country last year citing overwhelming operating costs, and it’s likely there are more to come. What Singapore’s malls need is variety, which is why we’re pleased to learn that e-commerce retailer and homegrown brand Love, Bonito will be venturing into its first permanent physical store in October, taking over a staggering 4603 sq ft space previously occupied by fast-fashion giant Forever 21 at 313@Somerset.
In recent years, it has become clear that consumers are hunting for bargains online. E-commerce has become the new buzzword, while physical retail is spiralling and bringing the once-thriving Great Singapore Sale down with it. The breaking down of borders means that it’s easy to have something delivered from international marketplaces such as Amazon, Taobao, and Ebay – much more variety and convenience for the consumer.
And we totally get it. If you could buy groceries online and have them delivered straight to my doorstep, why wouldn’t you? It also doesn’t help that Singaporeans are among the savviest spenders in Asia, with a higher percentage shopping online than our contemporaries in Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Closer to home, the appearance of regional brands like ZALORA and Lazada have disrupted the physical retail market, as people now know they can buy products at a much cheaper price. These companies, along with a number of other local online-only brands have been conducting their own GSS sales online during this period, which is smart – the shopping needn’t stop just because people are no longer visiting brick and mortar stores.
Traditional retailers in Singapore need to realise that they’re not only competing with each other, but also the ever burgeoning amount of local and international e-commerce businesses, adjusting with the changing needs and shopping habits of consumers and millennials. The iconic GSS that we all grew up with has a future, but not as the way we know it.
This is the age of e-commerce, of Amazon, Alibaba, Lazada, and ZALORA, and all those who have embraced digital. For a large number of older merchants that are out of date and been squeezing sales margins, they might already be beyond saving. So much for being a world-class shopping destination.
The Great Singapore Sale 2017 will run till 13 August 2017.