Orchard Road retailers face 'dicey' Xmas
UNDER all the bright lights and glitter, Christmas is a tough season for retailers.
Every year, they face challenges from various quarters, said Steven Goh, the executive director of the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba), such as increasingly fierce competition from suburban malls and e-commerce, and falling tourist numbers.
"It's a dicey time for retailers," said Mr Goh, adding that discounts would be deeper this Christmas from its members, of which it has 132, including major players like the FJ Benjamin Group and department stores like Isetan and Metro.
To drum up interest during what he calls "the golden month of business for Orchard Road", members are dangling discounts of up to 70 per cent this Christmas season, up from last year's 50 per cent.
Retailers are hoping for a larger piece of a shrinking pie. Last year, 15.1 million tourists visited Singapore, a 3.1 per cent drop from 2013 and the first since 2009.
In the first half of this year, tourism receipts slumped 12 per cent year on year to $10.5 billion against a 3 per cent decline in visitor arrivals to 7.3 million.
To help brick-and-mortar members combat competition from e-commerce, Orba will launch a free mobile application, OneOrchard, on Nov 20. Featuring an e-store, it will let shoppers download vouchers and make purchases from the street's biggest brands before heading down to the stores to collect their wares.
It is also banking on its annual light-up to attract visitors.
Christmas On A Great Street will stretch 3.38km this year from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura - up from last year's 2.88km - and will start at 6.30pm every day from tomorrow following its launch by President Tony Tan Keng Yam to Jan 3.
The light-up's modern colour scheme of neon green, fuschia pink, light blue and silver will give a twist to its traditional theme, revolving around classic Christmas motifs like bells, baubles, stars and pine cones.
Designed by local artist Dick Lee and designer Yang De Rong, the light-up will have special structures - including a 4m-high Christmas gift box, Christmas trees and mini arches - at various points along the street.
Lamp posts will also shimmer with reflective sequins in the day - a detail that almost did not happen because of concern by the authorities that they would distract motorists. They consented when Orba agreed not to install them near traffic light junctions and only on sidewalks.
Last year's light-up attracted 5.36 million visitors, a number Orba hopes to match this year.
Helen Khoo - executive director of WingTai Asia, with more than 100 stores here across brands including Topshop and Karen Millen - is keeping her fingers crossed.
"The climate is unpredictable now, it all depends on whether you have strong products and promotions to get customers' attention. They have so many choices nowadays," she said, adding that cross brand promotions will be created to attract shoppers.
There will be better deals this year, said R. Dhinakaran, managing director of Jay Gee Melwani Group, which runs jeans chain Levis and health retailer Holland & Barrett here.
"We want to capture the business," he said, noting it has been slow this year at his 12 Orchard Road stores.
Some, like Skin Inc, are confident of doing well. The skincare chain, with two outlets in Ion Orchard and Scotts Square, is expecting a better Christmas this year than last.
It would be in line with its performance this year, which has grown 30 per cent over the same period last year, said owner Sabrina Tan, 41.
"Christmas is our peak season and we are confident sales will be swift," she said, adding that the brand has a strong social-media strategy which includes letting shoppers customise their own skincare products as well as share product testimonials online.