More staying open over festive period

SINGAPORE - Chinese New Year is typically a time for shop owners and their staff to rest, but some businesses will remain open as they see this as a perfect opportunity to reap profits.

Supermarket chains, coffee shops and even foodcourts have chosen to stay open in recent years, with many citing increases in daily takings of up to 30 per cent, compared with an average day.

Even 12 out of the 18 malls along the Orchard Road shopping belt will remain open this year, said the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba). They include Ion Orchard, Orchard Central, Paragon, Wisma Atria and The Centrepoint.

Coffee shop operator Kelvin Ling, 35, said he noted a 50 per cent increase in patronage over the Chinese New Year holiday period last year at his two coffee shops. He runs 128 Choices Eating House at Toa Payoh Lorong 1 and HG 106 Food Place at Hougang Avenue 1.

Mr Ling said: "People who want to have a coffee or a simple meal can come here before they visit residents in the surrounding Housing Board blocks. Eating here also saves the hassle of having to prepare food at home."

His drinks stall at 128 Choices earned about 30 per cent more a day over the festive season last year - even if not all of the food stalls chose to stay open.

Ah Seng Teochew Noodle stall at 128 Choices will be open today and tomorrow, and the holiday crowd is a chance for its owner, Mr Yeow Keng Seng, to earn "a bit more".

"It is usually not that crowded here (on a regular day), and we don't earn much... Hopefully, we can make a bit more this time," said the 70-year-old.

Mr David Hoon, 58, who co-manages the 24-hour Kim San Leng Food Centre at Bishan Street 13, said it will be business as usual over the next three days. "The atmosphere is different, with people (coming here) dressed nicely after doing their visits. It feels very wang (prosperous)."

The drinks stall he runs saw about 20 per cent increase in earnings over a two-day period last year. It usually makes more than $3,000 on an average day.

For malls and supermarkets, the festive cheer also brings with it the challenge of hiring additional staff willing to work over the holiday period.

Orba executive director Steven Goh said that while a good number of malls will stay open, some tenants may close their stores.

"Because of the labour crunch, smaller retailers have trouble finding people to work. It is difficult... and what more, over Chinese New Year," he said.

The festive period is also a chance for staff who are willing to work to make some extra cash.

Cold Storage and Giant employees who work over the public holiday will each receive a red packet, said a spokesman for Dairy Farm, which runs the supermarkets. This is on top of the double pay they will receive, in accordance with the Manpower Ministry's regulations.

Giant stores will stay open throughout the break, and so will Cold Storage supermarkets, with the exception of those at Takashimaya, China Square and Funan DigitaLife Mall.

Supermarket chain FairPrice's 13 24-hour stores will remain open through the weekend.

It has recruited about 800 to 1,000 temporary staff to help out over the festive period, who can earn up to $9.60 an hour, excluding overtime pay.

Ms Rebecca Teo, FairPrice's human resource director, said: "Many companies in the retail sector are facing manpower issues, and FairPrice is not an exception."

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