Sales on the uptick but still slow

SINGAPORE - Sales have improved slightly this weekend in Little India, but they remained slow yesterday, said restaurants and shops in the area.

Despite the resumption of bus services for foreign workers for the first time since the riot two weeks ago, businesses still saw lacklustre demand.

Indian Express, a restaurant selling traditional North Indian and Lacknavi cuisine, said that while sales have been "slightly better" compared with last week, some customers remain wary of coming to the area.

"Some of my customers will call me beforehand to ask if things are all right," said restaurant manager Gurpal Singh, 31.

"I think some families are still scared."

Restaurants that cater mostly to migrant workers, too, said sales were on the uptick but remained worrying.

"Normally I sell two huge pots of briyani, but this week I sold just half a pot," said Mr P. Balamurugam, 35, owner of South Indian canteen Mahas.

But shops selling alcohol did not see much improvement in their takings even though the ban on alcohol sales has been lifted.

Yesterday afternoon, the manager of minimart S&YMD said she had sold only four cans of beer - a far cry from the 40 or so cans of beer she usually sells on weekends.

"Our tidbits are not special so most of our customers buy alcohol," said Ms Srividhya Kannaivan, 25.

"Most of the foreigners like to buy liquor and drink it on the spot. They don't like to bring it back to drink."

At liquor store Pradeep International at Buffalo Road, sales had also taken a beating.

Shop owner Sivakkumar, 36, was afraid he would not be able to cover his rent because of poor business.

On weekends, the shop usually makes about $10,000, but as of yesterday afternoon, Mr Sivakkumar said he had earned only $200 for the day.

"Most of my customers come after 8pm, but now we're not allowed to sell alcohol after that," he said.

"The situation is critical. If it continues, I may have to close the shop."

Still, most businesses expect things to stabilise within two months.

"Maybe with Christmas coming up, workers who come today will tell their friends things are not so bad," said Madam K. Santhi, 51, a cashier at Aravind's Curry.

"That would be a good Christmas present."

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