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Food retailers see lagging sales as Singaporeans delay New Year shopping

Customers may be heading to Malaysia to take advantage of the strong Singapore dollar, while shoppers may be waiting for last-minute deals.

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans seem to be buying their Lunar New Year goodies later this year, with sales at wholesale outlets or neighbourhood supermarkets being lacklustre compared to the previous year.

Li Chuan Food Products, for instance, noted that sales from walk-in customers slipped 5 per cent, compared to the same period last year. The wholesaler is one of many in Woodlands where bargain hunters shop for goodies and food products such as crab sticks, for the festive season.

Nearby, Chop Hup Chong Food Industries also saw slower sales up to two weeks before the Lunar New Year.

Accessibility seems to be a factor, according to the owners and customers.

"People have a trend of buying New Year goodies at a later stage. That might be partially because of the availability of the 24-hour supermarket (and) so we face this kind of abnormality that (has been) happening for the past two to three years,” Tan Han Wei, general manager of Li Chuan Food Products, who added that the company has seen a 5 to 10 per cent increase in sales to retailers like supermarkets and wet markets, compared to previous years.

"It's an industrial estate, for those people who stay… far away, I think making a trip here (is) not so convenient," Jasmine Chua, a 45-year-old customer service manager said.

However, some supermarkets that Channel NewsAsia spoke to like Cold Storage and Sheng Siong also noticed a slower pick-up in sales.

One supermarket says customers may be heading to Malaysia to take advantage of the strong Singapore dollar. Another reason cited was the growing price-sensitivity of consumers seeking the best deals.

Others say shoppers may be waiting for last-minute deals, or it could be a matter of changing social norms.

"Maybe because most families now are also dual income, so both mum and dad are all working, and because of the busy schedules, it's quite difficult for them to do their shopping earlier,” Alvinia Lee, assistant manager of marketing at Giant, said.


As such, this may be why more are turning to online shopping.

NTUC Fairprice said online orders during this period have grown by over 20 per cent, compared to last year. Similarly, Sheng Siong reported a rise in online sales, a trend that has continued from last year.

Online grocery delivery website Honestbee also observed a 50 per cent increase in large cart orders just a week before the Lunar New Year, with items like packet drinks, abalone and fresh groceries among the most popular.

With the festive period just round the corner, most stores are expecting a last-minute spike in sales, with some expecting a 10 to 15 per cent increase.