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Wet weather woes for small businesses with rainy days set to continue

Wet weather woes for small businesses with rainy days set to continue

A pedestrian with an umbrella walking in the rain in Singapore. (File photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Whether they are durian stalls, restaurants or retail stores, the sustained wet weather has dampened operations of some of these businesses, with owners looking to come up with ways to get around the challenges posed by the regular heavy showers.

Singapore has been hit by downpours on most days since the beginning of December.

An advisory released by the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) at the end of November said that moderate to heavy showers would be expected due to a monsoon surge, with most parts of Singapore receiving above-normal rainfall in the first half of this month. 

And there is no respite in sight, with wet weather set to continue over the festive season.

Florist and business owner Lim Ching Ying, who runs 5am Flowers, said the courier services she typically uses to deliver her bouquets have experienced delays of up to three hours due to the heavy rains slowing traffic. To avoid this, she is paying extra for courier services with smaller delivery windows to ensure that the flowers arrive on time.

From mid-November to this week, she spent S$500 on delivery charges, twice as much as her normal delivery costs for a month.

Adding that she also usually offers a 30 per cent refund if the bouquet arrives late, she said: “That could pretty much be my entire margin for small product orders.”

In preparation for the festive season, she has upgraded to using more express courier services to ensure heavy rain does not result in disappointed customers. The business will be absorbing the costs because prices were already agreed upon in advance. 

“If it’s a product and it’s not so time-sensitive, then I’d drop the customer a note when delivery slots are arranged to explain the weather. Luckily, most of them are pretty understanding,” she said. 

“But this does make me worried, so I think twice now before accepting rush orders too - which is a pity as it’s my bread and butter this season.”

Online plant retailer Noah Garden Centre has also experienced delivery challenges, as drivers “have to take necessary precautions on the road”. 

On the upside, the company spokesperson said that while the heavy rain could have an impact on the health of the plants they deliver, most supplier nurseries have precautions to prevent them from wilting.

Prince Landscape & Construction, which has its own nurseries, said regular maintenance of the plants, like weeding and pruning, is affected. 

"The manpower required for the maintenance could not be used effectively. Considerable time was lost in doing the essential tasks," said a spokesman. 

He also noted that there was "considerable delay" in Christmas tree deliveries due to traffic jams and slow moving traffic caused by the wet weather.

"Some of the flowering plants' blooms in our nursery fell down in the continuous rains affecting the quality of plants for display purposes," he added. 

HEAVY RAIN KEEPING CUSTOMERS AT HOME

Microbrewery RedDot BrewHouse’s operation manager Ong Kuan Siang said that sales at its Dempsey outlet have fallen by about 10 to 15 per cent since the onset of the wet weather, while reservations have dropped by about half. 

Typically, the restaurant would receive reservations for 180 to 200 customers on a regular Friday night. However, in December, bookings have fallen to 70 to 100 people on Fridays as more people choose to stay home to avoid the risk of a soaking. 

Durian sellers CNA spoke to also said the persistent wet weather has affected sales as fewer customers are currently venturing out and about. 

A further problem is that the supply of durians, which are typically from the Malaysian states of Pahang and Johor, has shrunk partly due to the wet weather, as excessive rain can cause harvest delays, said Mr Kelvin Tan, manager of 99 Old Tree.

However, other factors such as the festive period - when people purchase the fruit for parties - and increased demand from China, particularly for the mao shan wang variety, have caused supply to fall further, he added. 

The MSS has forecast moderate to heavy afternoon thunderstorms for most days in the next two weeks, extending into the evening on some days.

With showers expected around Christmas and this month’s overall rainfall predicted to be “well above average”, some businesses CNA spoke to are prepared for the prolonged wet spell. 

READ: Met Service forecasts wet weather this Christmas

The Prive Group, which has multiple food and beverage outlets with outdoor seating, said it is “fully prepared for any slowdown”, although business has seen a pick-up due to the holiday season. 

“In general due to the rainy season, some of our business will get affected in some outlets that have more outdoor seating. That is the nature of our business,” said Mr Yuan Oeij, chairman of The Prive Group. 

“The outlets that are more exposed to rain would see some decline on the days when it rains at the wrong time, for example just before peak hours, but most are doing well.” 

Helping to offset the problems that could arise from heavy showers is the fact that most of Prive’s outlets are rain-protected, with outdoor marquees set up for the rainy season complementing large indoor spaces with sufficient covered seating. 

NO INCREASE IN DEMAND FOR FOOD DELIVERIES

While F&B outlets suggested there has been a drop in the number of customers heading out to eat, food delivery companies do not seem to have seen a corresponding spike in demand. 

Deliveroo and Grab said they have not seen a significant increase in food delivery orders across Singapore in the past weeks. 

Foodpanda has experienced an increase in orders this week compared to the previous seven days, but were reluctant to attribute it to just the heavy rain. 

“While Singapore experienced a rainier than usual week, multiple factors could have contributed to the increase in orders,” said a Foodpanda spokesperson. 

“Especially in these couple of weeks leading up to the festive Christmas and New Year season, we have multiple ongoing restaurant promotions.”

BETTER TIMES FOR LAUNDROMATS

On the flipside, laundromats are seeing brisker business this December, helped by the challenges that people face drying clothes in cool, wet conditions. 

Laundrymart’s franchisee Chern Zhang said that sales at the Somerset branch he runs increased by 10 per cent in the first two weeks of December compared to the same period in November. 

He expects to see more customers if the wet weather continues, “since most new apartments have limited drying space and time is the most precious asset for most people in Singapore”. 

DIY Laundry’s franchisor William Lau said the chain, which has 50 outlets across Singapore, has seen an increase of dryer usage by 20 to 30 per cent since the onset of the rainy weather. 

But while this translates to an increase in sales, the store owners also have to clean and service the machines more frequently. 

At Ocean Wash’s laundromats, foot traffic has risen by about 30 to 50 per cent in December at its 16 locations, said company director Belmont Chia. 

Over the past weekend, when there were consecutive days of rain from Friday to Sunday, some people even queued for a few hours to use to dryer at some outlets, he said. 

Source: CNA/hw

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