Saturday, August 18, 2012

HDB shopkeepers upbeat on prospects

Straits Times: Sat, Aug 18

DESPITE an uncertain economic environment, HDB shopkeepers are upbeat about business prospects and intend to stay put.

This emerged from an annual survey conducted by the Housing Board, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said in a blog post yesterday.

In the survey in September last year, 2,702 shopkeepers were asked if they were satisfied with current business and how many customers they served daily, among other questions.

Asked if they aimed to continue over the next five years, eight in 10 said yes - the highest number since 2007, said HDB.

Mr Khaw said the full range of shops and facilities are an integral part of HDB living, "injecting vibrancy into our housing estates". Such conveniences were key in his own decision to buy a landed property 25 years ago off Yio Chu Kang Road, next to Ang Mo Kio. "We never regretted that decision."

There are 14,500 HDB shops islandwide.

HDB's survey also revealed differences between shopowners depending on location and type of business. Asked if they were satisfied with their current business, 55 per cent in mature towns said yes, compared to 49 per cent in newer towns.

Mature towns include Clementi and Queenstown. Young towns include Sembawang and Punggol.

Mr Suresh Kumar, 55, who sells household wares in Canberra estate, said shop space in older estates is hard to come by.

New estates like his are populated mostly with younger Singaporeans, who shop more in malls. "The new estates also have big boys like FairPrice and Shop n Save competing with us," he said.

Older estates have the edge, being closer to town and landed housing clusters, said Mr Tay Kim Chwee, 63, who has run a laundromat and dry cleaning business in Clementi for 26 years.

HDB's survey also showed a higher level of satisfaction and confidence in business prospects among medical and dental clinics and childcare centres.

But apparel shops and optical shops found the going harder. Only 38.8 per cent of optical shops were satisfied with current business, while only 75 per cent of apparel shops said they aimed to continue for the next five years.

Said Mr Ang Chua Yong, 62, who has run an optical shop in Tanglin Halt for more than 20 years: "My older customers are dying out and young people would rather pay more for trendy brands." His shop does not stock branded goods.

In his blog, Mr Khaw urged shopowners to tap initiatives such as the Revitalisation of Shops scheme, where HDB co-funds efforts to upgrade shopping environments or do promotional events.

Of the 10 HDB shopkeepers The Straits Times interviewed yesterday, only two had participated in such programmes.

But the merchants' association in Changi Village is counting on such help in planning a weekly Sunday market from Sept 9 to draw crowds that have dwindled since hawker centres there closed for renovation a few months ago.

Mr Lim Tow Soon, 58, said HDB is paying 40 per cent of the $5,000 cost to run a Sunday market. He has run a Western restaurant there for 12 years, and is the president of the association.

"It is local factors like the hawker centres closing that affect our business, not really national factors like a recession," he said.

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
Senior Sales Director
DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) Pte Ltd (L3006301G)

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