'Business is booming': Air-con retailers, servicing firms struggle to cope with demand amid hot weather
SINGAPORE: Amid the blazing weather in recent weeks, air-conditioner retailers and servicing firms are seeing a surge in business – with some unable to meet the strong demand.
Singapore experienced its hottest May day on record earlier this month, with temperatures hitting 36.7 degrees Celsius at Admiralty.
At the start of April, the mercury also reached 36.8 degrees in the same area, just a shade below the highest temperature ever recorded in Singapore – 37 degrees Celsius in Tengah in 1983.
Air-conditioner servicing firm EconCool told CNA it has seen a 37 per cent increase in enquiries and bookings this quarter, compared to the first quarter of the year.
Most requests are for maintenance, but demand for the installation of air-conditioning units has also grown considerably, said the firm’s spokesperson, adding that the requests are for both homes and workspaces.
“Maybe with the hot weather, they decide: Okay this space also needs an air-con,” she said, adding that the easing of COVID-19 restrictions may have also played a part in boosting business.
“We’re very grateful that business has been booming. I mean, we’re of course sorry for the fact that it’s very hot, but honestly, in a business mind, it has been a blessing in disguise.”
Servicing firm ServiceAircon.SG said it now gets about 20 enquiries a day, double compared to just a few months ago.
“Definitely, the weather plays a huge part,” said its director Ler Jun Hui.
“Nowadays we’re unable to cater to demand. We have to turn some of them away, because we cannot handle or overpromise.”
To meet demand, the firm is looking to add more technicians to its current team of fewer than 10 workers.
“I was quite surprised that after (hiring more) technicians, already we’re at full capacity again, so we’re hiring again,” said Mr Ler.
WORK-FROM-HOME ALSO A FACTOR
For 338 Aircon Singapore, business for April and May has swelled 30 per cent, compared to the previous two months. It is also 20 per cent higher than in the same period a year ago.
While the weather has played a part in this, a more significant factor could be the work-from-home phenomenon, said the firm’s manager, who wanted to be known only as Mr Pang.
In the past, a household may have only used the air-conditioner in the bedroom and occasionally, in the study, he said.
“But now once they work from home, one in living room, one in study room, end up they use more air-con.
"When you use more, then chances of it breaking down is higher, or the chances of you finding it’s not cold is higher."
DIFFICULTY FINDING WORKERS
Getting the manpower to meet demand has proven to be “one of the greatest challenges” so far, said Mr Ler.
“It’s hard to attract local talent to do this kind of stuff, it’s not so popular with youngsters and also physically intensive.”
Mr Pang echoed this, adding that the problem is compounded by the fact that many workers in the industry – who are Malaysian – have returned home and chosen not to return to Singapore.
“Of course we’re looking to digitise, looking to use more equipment, but ultimately, air-con (servicing) is still very laborious. You still need a person to go up and open the air-con,” said Mr Pang, who has 10 technicians.
“So we just pace out the servicing … Reputation is important, so we’re also not rushing to make the extra buck because we are here for the long run.”
CUSTOMERS SNAPPING UP NEW UNITS
While some households are only looking to service their existing air-conditioners, other buyers are snapping up new units.
For furniture chain Courts, sales for air-conditioners in April and May have doubled compared to the same period a year ago, it told CNA.
The firm attributed this to the hot weather and its “aggressive promotions” for new home owners and those looking to replace their units.
Harvey Norman has seen a similar trend, with its air-conditioning sales for the two months growing by more than 70 per cent year-on-year.
At Gain City, air-conditioner sales have also risen by more than 10 per cent in May, compared to both the previous month and the same period a year ago, the firm told CNA.
It added that there has been an increase in prices due to the tight supply of stock in the market, arising from a lack of parts and raw materials.
The chains said air-conditioner sales typically tend to pick up in March or April, lasting until August or September. April and May are typically the hottest months of the year in Singapore, according to experts.