The Great Singapore Sale (GSS) begins today with a longer sales period of 10 weeks and perks for shoppers who pay with cards issued by a Chinese payments company - in a bid to attract higher spending by Chinese tourists.
For the first time, UnionPay International cardholders will get extra discounts and offers at more than 100 merchants during the sale, under a new three-year partnership between the payment network and the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), organiser of the GSS.
The extension of the sale period to 10 weeks - for the last 12 years, GSS stretched over eight weeks - is to better cater to tourists from Asia Pacific countries, including China, whose summer holidays fall in the June to August period, said SRA executive director Anthony Gan.
He added that the annual shopping festival, which ends on Aug 14, will still coincide with the school holidays in June and the regional peak travel seasons in July, as with previous years.
The changes to the shopping festival, now in its 23rd year, comes amid weaker economic sentiments and challenging retail conditions such as high vacancy rates in malls, higher operating costs and lower retail revenue.
Singapore Polytechnic senior retail lecturer Sarah Lim said while the longer sale period will attract tourists, it may dilute the impact of the sale for locals.
This year, Chinese payments firm UnionPay International will be the official card of the GSS, in place of MasterCard, which has been the official card for the last 12 years.
Mr Gan said: "SRA, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and UnionPay are working together very closely within China to boost tourist arrivals to Singapore, and increase tourist spending here."
The world's largest card issuer, UnionPay has issued more than 5.4 billion cards globally, with close to nine million issued in South-east Asia as at March 31.
In Singapore, almost all ATMs and taxis here and more than 80 per cent of merchants accept UnionPay cards. Four banks here issue UnionPay cards - Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, United Overseas Bank and DBS Bank, which launched a debit card with UnionPay last month.
According to STB figures, Chinese visitors spent $2.54 billion here last year and were the top spenders among Singapore's visitor markets. Of that amount, 45 per cent was spent on shopping.
The GSS stretches from Orchard Road to Marina Bay, Sentosa Harbourfront and the heartland. It includes online and physical stores, from fashion and dining to hotels and attractions.
Last year, shoppers shelled out a five-year high of $2.12 billion using their MasterCard cards, with the growth fuelled mainly by tourists.
This year, consumers who shop at GSS stand to win a record more than $200,000 with the SRA giving out $100 each - in the form of a UnionPay prepaid card loaded with the cash - to five shoppers daily. Those who pay with UnionPay cards stand to win another $500.
Shoppers also stand to win more than $320,000 worth of prizes in the Singapore Press Holdings' Shop & Win contest by spending at least $30 in one receipt at any participating outlet. Two cars, a Subaru XV 1.6i-S and Nissan Sylphy 1.8L, are up for grabs.
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