Coronavirus: Crowds flock to malls, but F&B outlets in town recovering slower

Above: The crowd situation at Ion Orchard around noon yesterday during the second weekend of the phase two reopening. Right: A bottleneck forming at the walkway next to the Orchard MRT station, with people entering Ion Orchard coming up against other
Above: The crowd situation at Ion Orchard around noon yesterday during the second weekend of the phase two reopening. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Above: The crowd situation at Ion Orchard around noon yesterday during the second weekend of the phase two reopening. Right: A bottleneck forming at the walkway next to the Orchard MRT station, with people entering Ion Orchard coming up against other
Above:A bottleneck forming at the walkway next to the Orchard MRT station, with people entering Ion Orchard coming up against others headed in the direction of Wisma Atria. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

They decided to stay home and avoid the expected crowds last weekend, the first after Singapore moved into phase two of its post-circuit breaker period. Yesterday, they formed part of the crowds seen queueing to get into some malls in town, not just to shop but also to meet friends and relatives.

Retiree Sia Lum Peng, 62, who was in Ion Orchard with her younger sister, said they were meeting in person for the first time in a long while. She said they were meeting outside only because she had to visit the dentist while her sister had to replace a pair of shoes.

"Last weekend, we didn't even dare to come out because it was the first day of reopening, so surely it would have been very crowded everywhere. So we delayed until this weekend and will be out for only a few hours," said Madam Sia.

Yesterday, there were queues to enter malls such as Ion Orchard and 313@somerset; shoppers were also seen lining up outside retail stores at Ion Orchard such as Daiso, Sephora, Crate & Barrel as well as Uniqlo, in the first weekend that the Japanese fashion retailer was open after the circuit breaker.

A 27-year-old marketing specialist, who gave her name only as Ms Lim, was waiting for a friend at coffee chain % Arabica in 313@somerset.

She said it was the first day she made plans to meet people outside of her family.

Ms Lim said: "I've been used to being alone for so long, so I need time to get my social life back. I don't think I'll be meeting other friends outside anytime soon because I need some time to adjust to the crowd."

Social gatherings of up to five people are allowed in phase two and each group should stay at least 1m from one another. Masks have to be worn at all times except when eating and drinking.

Staff at several shops told The Sunday Times they were seeing more shoppers compared with the week before. Mr Benjamin Tan, co-founder of speciality coffee joint Glyph Supply Co at 111 Somerset, said the mall was more crowded and his shop had more customers yesterday compared with the last weekend.

Business owners like Mr Tan said the phase two reopening has helped their sales slightly, although shop capacity has been drastically reduced because of safe distancing.

He said his sales last weekend were around 20 per cent less than before the circuit breaker. He estimates that it will take around six months to recover the losses he sustained during the circuit breaker period. "But we're considered quite lucky; 20 per cent is not so bad. I had expected it to be worse, so I'm still hopeful."

Mr Ronald Kamiyama, managing partner of The Cicheti Group, said the number of reservations at Caffe Cicheti in Beach Road has fallen due to reduced capacity.

"Luckily, we held on to the delivery platforms and are able to make up for a bit of the earnings. At the current rate, it will take the rest of the year for business to recover," he said.

Food and beverage (F&B) outlets in town are recovering slower than those in the heartland, observed Ms Cynthia Chua, founder of Spa Esprit Group.

She said the group's Tiong Bahru Bakery outlets in Raffles City and Funan have seen a 30 to 50 per cent drop in sales, while its outlets in Tiong Bahru and Chip Bee Gardens, which are near residential areas, have seen an increase in sales during lunch time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 28, 2020, with the headline 'Crowds flock to malls, but F&B outlets in town recovering slower'. Print Edition | Subscribe