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How Singapore’s Tourism Board Drives Retail Every Year

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Every year, thousands of tourist flock to Singapore for the year-end holidays. It’s the time of the year when Orchard Road, the country’s premier lifestyle and shopping destination will transform into a magical wonderland.

Shopping malls bedecked with flickering fairy lights, twinkling trees and elaborate decorations, street performances and festive bazaars galore, with all of these, tourists can’t help but pay a visit to immerse themselves in the Christmas spirit!

The Singapore Tourism Board pours money into decorating tourist-favourite spots such as Marina Bay Sands and Orchard Road every year for the Christmas holidays. Revenues from their tourism and retail sector spike up significantly during this period.

Last year alone Singapore attained record highs for the second time in two years.

A 3.9% increase in Singapore’s tourism receipts, amounting to S$26.8billion, was primarily due to the growth in visitor arrivals all across the top 10 markets, as well as higher visitor arrivals from high-spending markets such as China, South Korea, United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK).

There was also an increment of 6.2% to 17.4 million in visitor arrivals, with 13 of the top 15 markets showing growth.

Singapore’s tourism board has been successfully driving the retail industry on a yearly basis.

In order to remain appealing to tourists as a shopping destination, the Singapore tourism board continues to work closely with industry partners and relevant agencies.

The country has even been ranked seventh on Expedia’s list of the “World’s 25 best shopping cities”, coming after New York City, Berlin, Los Angeles, London, Kuala Lumpur, and Tokyo in that order.

The cities were ranked from their scores in three areas: value for money in which Singapore scored 8 out of 10, friendliness towards tourists where Singapore also scored 8 over 10, and lastly, annual tourist numbers of which the country scored 7 out of 10.

So how does Singapore’s tourism board drive retail every year?

1. Local Brands Leveraging Novelty [restrict]

With more tourists avoiding stores that typically sell tacky souvenirs to get a quick buck from them, more Singaporean shops have begun selling products that tell very local aspects of the Singapore culture and lifestyle.

One such local shop that has been pulling crowds would be Supermama. The shop sells Singapore-themed porcelain items, with designs such as the HDB corridor and ‘tembusu’.

Another retail store, Megafash, which carries more than 600 independent local brands, has also gained traction among tourists. Items sold by the outfit include plates that are designed with recipes for local dishes such as nasi lemak, “rainbow agar agar” doorstops, and T-shirts with Singlish phrases.

Tourists often receive similar souvenirs wherever they go to. It’s always the same keychain, magnets, t-shirts, etc that are often not of good quality but are pricey. More Singaporean retailers are aware of this and have resorted to selling products that are uniquely Singaporean.

2. Retail Stores are Located Near Tourist Spots

Many retail stores, shopping malls and hawker stalls are located close to hotels, attractions, and places that are popular, especially among tourists.

More retailers are offering tourists the advantage of accessibility and convenience. Knowing too well that foreigners are not well versed with local streets, retailers locate their stores close to where tourists reside, instead of having them to search for the destination.

Tourists prefer to visit places that give them a truly authentic experience, choosing locations such as Chinatown, Joo Kiat, and Little India. Stores located in these areas are bound to always have higher visitors if not a surplus during peak hours.

Commonly sought after products by tourists include food and beverage, souvenirs, and clothing. Small businesses and local brands reap the benefit of providing customers with authentic, culture-oriented products.

Despite tourists also engaging in luxury shopping, and shopping in stores of international brands, it isn’t a surprise that homegrown brands are performing exceptionally well in the retail scene among tourists.

Some of the most popular shopping destinations for tourists in Singapore include Orchard Road, Chinatown Street Market, Vivo City, Haji Lane, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Serangoon Road, Clarke Quay, Mustafa Centre, Bugis Street Market, and Raffles City Singapore Shopping Centre.

3. Singapore Capitalises on their Food and Beverage Industry

Braving the humidity to feast in any of the country’s many hawker stalls is a favourite way to experience the Singaporean culture, by both tourists and locals alike.

Although the hotels and activities in Singapore may be known to not always be the cheapest, Singapore’s street food has remained relatively cheap while having high hygiene and quality.

Click here to learn about Singapore’s Unique Approach to Food Takeaway Packaging

Singapore offers a large variety of local and regional food stalls, and many take delight in their authentic cuisine, that is scrumptious and yet affordable. Some of Singapore’s best hawker food stalls have even managed to garner Michelin stars, a world first.

Check out Sethlui’s article on “30 Famous Local Foods To Eat In Singapore Before You Die”, for some of the best places to have your cravings for local food satisfied!

As such, the food and beverage sector of the country is a major contributor to their retail and tourism industry.

4. Annual Great Singapore Sales

Despite Singapore being renowned for being a year-round shopping paradise, one of the best times to visit is during the annual Great Singapore Sale.

It is when all kinds of discounts, up to as much as 70%, in addition to extended shopping hours, can be enjoyed at the shopping outlets across the island for eight weeks between late May and the end of July.

An alternative timing great for obtaining promotional offers and big savings is during the post-Christmas and New Year sales.

Other best times to visit are in January or February, a month before the Chinese New Year, where streets will be filled with stalls selling all sorts of wares from pottery, clothes and a variety of household items to a wide array of food.

Singapore’s huge sales provide promising quality and have garnered the interest of not only locals but tourists alike, significantly increasing the growth of the retail and tourism industry.

However, in recent years, despite a rise in the revenue for Singapore’s tourism sector continues there has been an observed declined in the retail sector.

Stiff competition has resulted in a drop in average retail spending per tourist: 16.4 million tourists visited Singapore in 2016, a 13.1% increase over the 14.5 million in 2012. The amount spent per tourist fell 3.1% from US$386 (RM1,650) to US$374 between 2012 and 2016, according to data compiled by Knight Frank.

Singapore tourist spending has dipped by half a percent, despite a 7.3 percent boost in arrivals.

According to the Singapore Tourism Board, approximately 4.6 million visitors arrived in the city-state in the first quarter of this year – but they spent less on shopping and accommodation.

The government data has revealed that tourist spending on shopping declined by 9 percent, with accommodation spending down 13 percent and food and beverage down by 16 percent.

Instead of spending in shops, hotels, and eateries, tourists splurged on sightseeing, gambling, and entertainment, collectively up by 6 percent.

In spite of the downfall, Singapore is quick to respond, already coming up with several initiatives to tackle this economic drop in the retail sector. Some of the initiatives already in motion include new retail concepts, omnichannel retail, effective utilisation of F&B’s expansion, and repositioning and repurposing of malls.


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