200 stalls remain empty at Geylang Serai Bazaar as high rental costs keep vendors away
This year’s edition is the longest-running ever, stretching for 36 days.
SINGAPORE: About a quarter of stall units at the Geylang Serai Bazaar remain empty, despite the annual festival market having started on Mar 17.
Of the 700 stall spaces available for rent at the event, nearly 200 units have still not been taken up.
Organisers say it is due to greater competition from other bazaars across the island, along with many vendors pivoting to home-based businesses after the pandemic.
However, vendors say the high costs of setting up shop at the annual bazaar is turning some away.
Mr Stephen Suriyah, founder of The Original Vadai, noted that there are empty stalls even along one of the main stretches in the bazaar.
“I'm also quite surprised. These are all the spots that actually get taken up really fast so you need to call the organisers to 'chope' your spot. But this year, that's not the case, probably because of the high rental (costs). This year is one of the highest we’ve noticed,” he said.
His vadai brand has been a regular fixture at the Geylang Serai Bazaar for the past 30 years, and one of its biggest challenges this year was the high bids needed to secure a space.
Mr Suriyah said that around eight years ago, he paid between S$8,000 to S$10,000 for a stall space. Today, he is forking out close to S$18,000 for a similar lot.
Despite that, he has five stalls at the bazaar and has increased his prices by 10 cents, in hopes of still turning around a profit.
The bazaar’s organisers have attributed the low take-up rate to stiff competition from at least ten other Ramadan bazaars across Singapore.
Many vendors have also pivoted to home-based businesses after the pandemic to sell their products and items, they said.
To fill the remaining units at the bazaar, the organisers are letting businesses who cannot afford to pay the rent in cash upfront, give a percentage of their sales to the organisers after the event has ended.
Event organiser Mustaffa Shah said: “For example, for every $10, we take $2 or $3, depending on the value of the shop space."
The costs of setting up the bazaar came up to nearly S$2.5 million this year, he said.
There are new concepts on-site, such as a stage and mezzanine to attract more visitors, especially those looking for a space to sit and break fast during Ramadan.
Despite the higher costs, visitors are still soaking in the atmosphere at the bazaar.
"Compared to previous years, I think there is an increase (in the prices), but still affordable for me,” said one visitor.
Another visitor told CNA: "It feels new. In the past years, we didn't have this much seating. There were more stalls but not enough seats. So people would just sit by the road. So it's a good improvement."
This year’s edition is the longest-running ever, stretching for 36 days until April 21.
Editor's note: The number of stalls available for rent at this year's bazaar has been amended in this article after the organisers updated the information previously provided to CNA.