Bazaar business down but not all dangling discounts
DESPITE a drop of up to 50 per cent in business and only a few days more to Chinese New Year, visitors heading to Chinatown's Festive Bazaar and expecting hefty discounts will come away disappointed.
The annual event, which started on Jan 15 and ends on Sunday, has been hit by unpredictable weather and a reduction in buying power, stall owners told My Paper.
Even so, some vendors are not reducing prices.
A stall owner, 50, who gave his name as Mr Feng, said he has set up shop at the bazaar for 10 years and has never seen such poor sales.
However, he would not be reducing prices to sell off his peanuts and foodstuffs, as this would incur losses.
Seven other stall vendors concurred.
My Paper understands that only those selling perishable foodstuffs and decorations with motifs specific to the Year of the Monkey are likely to offer discounts of up to 60 per cent in the two or three days before Chinese New Year, when prices are normally slashed.
However, it is business as usual for many stall owners, who come prepared for the weather with protective curtains, coverings and wooden crates to keep goods away from the rain.
Many, like 57-year-old handmade ornament stall owner Lu Cuihua, depend on regulars to get by and cover rentals, which range from more than $2,000 to $13,000.
Ms Lu, who has participated in the bazaar for more than 20 years, said it rained on the first 12 days. This, coupled with an uncertain economy, has led to the worst business she has seen, estimating a drop of at least 50 per cent.
She pointed to the closed stalls around her, saying that the vendors usually start work at 10am but have been setting up shop only at 1pm.
However, a few others were more optimistic.
Ong Seah Meng, 47, who sells assorted candies, said "people still have to buy their Chinese New Year goods so they'll come eventually".
The affable vendor, who has sold items at the bazaar for more than 10 years, added that it is vital to keep innovating to get new customers.
A spokesman for the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee, which organises the bazaar, said tents are put up to provide "as much shelter as possible for the stalls and visitors from the sun and rain".
She added that the weather does affect visitor traffic at the bazaar but that it remains "a must-visit for Singaporeans and tourists". There were about 900,000 visitors last year and 870,000 the year before.
There were afternoon and early evening thundery showers on most days of January due to strong solar heating of land areas and convergence of winds in the vicinity of Singapore, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) in an advisory on Monday.
An MSS spokesman told My Paper that the monthly rainfall total at the station nearest to Chinatown was 230mm last month. It is higher than the average monthly rainfall total last month for Singapore, at 169.9mm.
Widespread rain is expected for the Chinese New Year period, with rainfall for the first two weeks of February expected to be slightly above average.