SINGAPORE: After 25 years of the Great Singapore Sale, is it time to refresh or retire the campaign?
That is a question that might spring to mind following the dip in retail sales figures at department stores in June.
Although the Great Singapore Sale (GSS) was underway at the time, retail sales fell 7.3 per cent compared to the month before.
Year-on-year, retail sales for department stores were 1.9 percent lower.
Food retailers, supermarkets, sellers of furniture, household equipment, optical goods and books did not fare well either.
However, executive director at the Singapore Retailers Association, Rose Tong, was not disappointed by those results.
She explained why in this week's Asia Business First podcast.
"In the month of June, COE prices for cars were the lowest. There were windfalls from en-bloc sales. All this, I imagine, led to shoppers thinking, ‘I have more money right now. I can go on more extended holidays.’ There were also more property launches, so that’s where all the money went.
“GSS is actually a household name today and definitely one that is known worldwide. If you search for ‘GSS’ online, it will pop up all over and it is recognized as one of the top five shopping festivals. I do not think people have fallen out of love with GSS. But expectations have been raised that GSS has to be better.
“Shoppers have been conditioned to seeing sales all year round, so right now [the GSS] is not quite the sale worth waiting for.”
Michael Chiam, senior lecturer in Tourism at Ngee Polytechnic, agreed.
“In the past, you only have sales at certain points in the year – four times a year. But today you have sales almost every day. If you want to make the GSS something extraordinary, it has to be out of the norm. You must have sense of excitement to engage customers.”
To bring back the buzz, Ms Tong said the Singapore Retailers Association has been exploring the idea of shortening the GSS period, which is currently 10 weeks long.
“I think 10 weeks long could be a bit limiting and exhausting. And if we have it too long, it could reduce the urgency to shop.”
Another possibility is renaming the Great Singapore Sale.
“We would still keep the acronym 'GSS' because it is great for branding. But we might not call it a 'sale'. Calling it a 'sale' limits the ability to do other things and there are some retailers who do not want to be specifically associated with a sale. So we thought it could be a Great Singapore Shopping Festival.”
Mr Chiam also said that the notion of a sale could have negative connotations.
“I think a carnival or festival may be a better thing than a sale, because a sale can be associated with cheap things.”
With the preponderance of chain stores in local shopping malls, the Singapore Retailers Association is well aware of the need to promote products that are “uniquely Singapore” in nature, so as to attract both local and foreign shoppers alike.
Ms Tong gave a hint of what to expect in next year’s GSS.
“We want to promote Singapore, and this is where the Singapore brands could be largely promoted. And if you don’t call it a ‘sale’, the Singapore brands will feel that they will not be associated with the sale. I think it is time to take the Singapore brands to the fore and see them as being able to help Singapore differentiate itself.”
To hear the suggestions for revitalizing Singapore’s retail scene, listen to the full podcast here.