Better sales at stores, hotels over Xmas

SINGAPORE- Businesses have been toasting to good times during this Christmas and New Year period, as shoppers in Singapore seemed more willing to part with their cash during this festive season than they did previously.

Hoteliers, retailers and even the postal service mostly said their sales during this holiday season have been better than a year ago.

Orchard Road Business Association executive director Steven Goh said its members' sales over this festive season are expected to increase by 5 per cent compared with the same period a year ago.

Department stores also told The Straits Times they have seen an improvement in sales over the Christmas period, though they declined to say by how much.

Tangs chief executive Foo Tiang Sooi said "figures have seen a healthy increase" compared with 2012's Christmas period.

The launch of a refurbished homeware section and the re-opening of a food market at its flagship Orchard store in November were a big boost, he said.

However, Mr Foo noted that shoppers are becoming more selective about how they spend their cash, given increased competition from new malls, brands and online retailers.

Still, department store Isetan Singapore has been fending off the competition well enough. Its sales promotion manager James Che reported that turnover during this holiday season has been slightly better.

The opening of a new Isetan outlet in Jurong East last month led to the improvement, he said.

A spokesman for Takashimaya Department Store said sales were challenging over Christmas, but it managed to achieve the same level of sales as the previous year.

Food and beverage business owners have also been getting a slice of the spending pie.

At Crystal Jade Culinary Concepts, a spokesman said sales were similar to that in 2012's Christmas period.

Although average spending was lower, more transactions were made.

Sales have also remained stable over at restaurant and club operator IndoChine Group.

Its chief executive Michael Ma said December is traditionally not the company's biggest month as corporate entertainment is low over the holiday season, with many customers travelling abroad.

Corporate clients are IndoChine's top spenders.

"A lot more individuals came out to celebrate, dine and party, making up for the dip in corporate spending, so at the end of the day, sales is about the same," said Mr Ma.

Courts Singapore chief executive officer Tim Luce said Christmas has always been one of the busiest periods in the calendar for the electrical, IT and furniture retailer.

This time round, there was increased demand for big-screen television sets, electrical items and ovens leading up to the week of Christmas.

"What's different this Christmas is that there has also been an uplift in furniture products, which is largely attributed to the lead-up to Chinese New Year, which falls in January," added Mr Luce.

Even the postman got busier. Postal service provider Singapore Post has seen a 25 per cent increase in its parcel volume compared with 2012.

With consumers buying more and higher-value items like gadgets, clothes, shoes, and books for Christmas gifts, the size of parcels has been getting correspondingly bigger.

The growth in parcels and packets delivery is also a result of the boom in e-commerce and online shopping, a spokesman said.

SingPost hired 20 per cent more couriers over the festive period to help in the deliveries, and also began delivering parcels on Saturdays and Sundays since early last month to clear the volume.

Hotels, for whom the year-end holiday season is traditionally a peak period, said they also enjoyed brisk business.

Goodwood Park Hotel, for example, said it had over 80 per cent occupancy on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

"Occupancy was better this year despite more intense competition from new hotel entrants," said a spokesman.

"Our hotel receives a lot of return guests and there have been more visitors from markets such as Australia and New Zealand."

Similarly, Royal Plaza on Scotts' average occupancy was 89 per cent from Dec 23 to Dec 26, up from 87 per cent during the same period in 2012, said general manager Patrick Fiat.

Park Hotel Group's three hotels in Singapore, Grand Park Orchard, Grand Park City Hall and Park Hotel Clarke Quay, had occupancy rates of between 80 per cent and 85 per cent from Dec 23 to Dec 27, said chief corporate officer Mohd Rafin.

"Occupancy was slightly lower as compared with 2012 by three to four percentage points but average daily rate is better as compared with 2012, by about 8 per cent to 10 per cent."

All three hotels were running full house on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, he added.

Marina Bay Sands said it has also seen high demand for hotel rooms and tables at its celebrity chef restaurants, especially for the countdown celebration.

Resorts World Sentosa said: "Our hotels have seen high occupancy, and Universal Studios Singapore and the Marine Life Park also saw strong visitorship over the past week."

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