Retail boom, thanks to June haze

People wearing masks cross a street in Singapore's Orchard Road shopping area on June 21, 2013.

SINGAPORE - The haze crisis last month may have been a bane to most people in Singapore, but it also caused a boom, at least where shopping was concerned.

During the Great Singapore Sale (GSS) period from May 31 to June 30, Singapore-based MasterCard credit-card holders spent a total of US$554.5 million (S$700 million) - the majority of which was spent in the country itself - a 17.8 per cent increase over the US$470.6 million spent in the same period last year.

The figure is a considerable amount, considering that MasterCard credit-card holders worldwide spent a total of US$797.4 million during the GSS, up 12.4 per cent from the same period last year, said MasterCard yesterday.

Retail experts told My Paper that shoppers could have remained indoors longer than usual to avoid stepping into the hazy outdoors.

There could also have been shoppers who were unfazed by the haze, because GSS offers were something they were looking forward to, regardless of weather conditions.

The haze hit Singapore on June 14, with the Pollutant Standards Index peaking at 401 on June 21.

The executive director of the Singapore Retailers Association, Ms Lau Chuen Wei, told My Paper that suburban stores held up better than city stores during the haze, possibly because people preferred to shop closer to their homes.

"Once indoors in the mall, the reluctance to go outside again could have led people to browse through more stores, and end up spending more," she said.

Ms Stephanie Ho, general manager of AsiaMalls Management, which manages six malls, said an increase of 8 per cent in sales and 4 per cent in human traffic was noted during the GSS, compared to the same period last year.

AsiaMalls manages malls such as Tiong Bahru Plaza, Hougang Mall and Tampines 1.

"Whether there was haze or not, a lot of people already had intended purchases in mind," explained Ms Sarah Lim, senior retail-management lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic's Business School.

In a separate statement yesterday, Changi Airport said the haze last month had "no discernable impact on passenger and aircraft movement".

In fact, passenger traffic last month, which includes arrivals and transits, increased by 6.1 per cent to 4.67 million, compared to the same period last year.

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