SINGAPORE: At least two retailers in Singapore have announced shorter business hours or temporary store closures in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
This comes after Singapore stepped up its risk assessment of the new flu-like virus last week and amid local transmission of the virus, which started in China and has since killed more than 900 and infected more than 40,000.
One of them is department store OG, which adjusted its store operating hours shortly after authorities announced the upgrade in the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level to Orange on Friday (Feb 7).
READ: Coronavirus outbreak: Singapore raises DORSCON level to Orange; schools to suspend inter-school, external activities
Its three stores, which used to be opened from 11am to 9.30pm daily, will now close at 8.30pm “until further notice”.
This is so that employees “can go home earlier ... in this critical period of fighting the coronavirus outbreak”, OG said in response to queries from CNA.
In line with the heightened measures, OG said it has begun temperature checks for all employees and visitors to its office. Promoters, delivery personnel and other staff entering its department stores must also use masks at all times.
Prior to that, it had taken other measures such as increased disinfection of floors, toilets and frequently touched surfaces like railings, lift buttons and escalator.
It also said that only one out of its 26 employees from China had recently travelled back home. This employee is currently on a 14-day leave of absence until Feb 18.
On whether crowds have thinned at its department stores, OG’s spokesperson told CNA that it has been monitoring developments since reopening for business on Jan 27 after the Chinese New Year holidays.
Before that, even though Singapore confirmed its first infected patient on Jan 23, OG “did not see a distinct drop in customers yet, especially since it was still the pre-Chinese New Year shopping period”.
But after the Chinese New Year break and with the DORSCON level at Yellow, the mall “began to see a decline in footfall and business”, with stores becoming “very quiet after 7pm”.
In particular, its department store at People’s Park saw the biggest drop in walk-in traffic, the spokesperson told CNA.
BHG Holdings also saw a big hit in sales, with transactions across its six outlets dropping between 40 to 50 per cent since the first confirmed case on Jan 23.
The chain department store said it will not adjust opening hours at the moment, although it “may review again if the situation changes”.
Similarly at Robinsons, operating hours for its three stores remain unchanged for now.
Both BHG and Robinsons said they have put in place precautionary measures in line with guidelines from the authorities.
Mandatory temperature checks are being carried out, while surgical masks are on hand for employees who feel unwell, they told CNA.
They have also stepped up the cleaning of their department stores and commonly-used areas, with Robinsons having a cleaning schedule of sanitising every 2 hours.
BHG is also looking to split its front-end staff into two teams so as “to minimise the physical contact (and) lowering the risk of infection”. It added that it also has two employees who are on the 14-day leave of absence, after returning from China on Jan 27 and Feb 4, respectively.
Metro and Isetan did not reply by the time this article was published, but a quick check with its customer service centres showed no change in opening hours.
HONESTBEE TEMPORARILY CLOSES HABITAT
Separately, retail start-up Honestbee has temporarily closed its tech-integrated grocery store Habitat from Monday until Feb 23.
The suspension of the grocery store, which is located in Pasir Panjang and also houses a dine-in area, “may be extended if necessary”, according to a company spokesperson.
“We have chosen to temporarily suspend habitat by honestbee as a proactive approach to combat community transmission in light of the increase in novel coronavirus cases and the elevated DORSCON risk assessment status,” she said.
Since Singapore confirmed its first case of the coronavirus, footfall in the grocery store has fallen about 60 per cent, with the impact most noticeable during dinner time on weekdays, the spokesperson added.
Honestbee has stopped its food delivery and laundry services since May 2019, as it embarks on a court-supervised debt restructuring.
It will continue to operate its online grocery delivery service, its announcement on Monday said.