No stopping Orchard sales boom

SINGAPORE - Despite underpass construction and a recent dengue threat, Orchard Road retail sales are still going strong, with experts saying they do not expect a drop in end-of-year receipts.

In fact, according to a recent survey by United Overseas Bank, Singapore shoppers are intending to spend 54 per cent more on Christmas gifts this year as compared to last year, with an average spending of $893.

The survey, in which more than 500 respondents were interviewed, found strong consumer confidence: Eight out of 10 believe Singapore's economy will stay the same or get better next year.

And with Chinese New Year falling in January next year, unlike when it fell in February this year, retail sales will continue to be strong after this month, Singapore Polytechnic business lecturer Amos Tan said.

Shoppers took a break last year because of the gap between the two major shopping seasons, but they are unlikely to do so this year. Mr Tan added: "Season shoppers are very alert (to sales) during this time of the year."

In October this year, the Somerset area near Orchard Road was flagged as a dengue hot spot, with more than a hundred reported dengue cases.

Sales dipped, but now appear to have picked up after the National Environment Agency said the area was no longer a hot spot at the start of this month.

Meanwhile, shoppers remain undeterred by the ongoing construction and renovation of the Orchard Road underpass, which connects ION Orchard to Tangs Plaza and Shaw House.

Tangs chief executive Foo Tiang Sooi said the store experienced only a slight decrease in store traffic when underpass construction first began in 2010, and has seen a "very healthy increase in footfall". He declined to give exact figures.

Footwear shop Rubi, which is located in the underpass, has even seen an increase in sales.

The store's supervisor, Ms Vanessa Tan, said sales were up nearly 25 per cent last month. She said: "The crowd is still quite crazy."

But some shoppers are still finding it difficult to navigate the narrower passageways. Mr Shan Misnor, a 49-year-old driver, said his hypertension makes the crowd in the Orchard Road underpass, which links Orchard Road MRT station to Tangs, particularly unbearable. He said: "The distance to walk is very short - say 10 minutes - but if you find it very crowded, you can't bear with it for even one minute."

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