Crowds return to Orchard Road, long lines at mall entrances as shops reopen after more than 2 months :

SINGAPORE: Crowds were back at Singapore’s Orchard Road shopping district on Friday (Jul 19), with many customers eager to make purchases on the first day that retail outlets were allowed to reopen.

As part of Phase 2 of Singapore’s reopening, physical shops were allowed to resume business after being shuttered for more than two months because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Long lines were seen at the entrances of malls and some shops when 24newsreads.com visited Orchard Road on Friday afternoon.

At ION Orchard, people trying to enter the mall from Orchard MRT station were seen gathering around signs with QR codes to check-in using the national SafeEntry system.

There were similar scenes at the entrance from the MRT station to Wisma Atria, as well as 313@Somerset.

Some popular brands, such as Zara at Ngee Ann City, Dior at ION Orchard and Victoria’s Secret at Mandarin Gallery, also saw long queues outside their stores. This was partly because shops were trying to limit the number of customers inside as part of safe distancing measures.

At Victoria’s Secret, a salesperson was seen putting up a sign indicating a 50 per cent sale.

NICE TO FINALLY BE OUT, SHOPPERS SAY

Shopper Celine Tan came to Orchard Road at around 11am. She bought a pot from the Takashimaya department store, had lunch and walked through some of the malls after that.

“It feels good to be out,” she said.

As a housewife, she said she spent most of her time at home during the “circuit breaker” period and Phase 1 of the reopening to take care of her children, as there were few places she visited apart from the supermarket during the two-and-a-half months.

Another visitor at Orchard, Bhavini Gokani, said she has been “so busy” at work with the circuit breaker forcing her to work round the clock that “it just feels so good” to be able to be out, shop, get a hair cut and have brunch.

“We used to take these things for granted,” she told 24newsreads.com. “I hope we learn to be grateful about doing the small things.”

She came out on Friday as she thought most people would be working so the streets would not be that busy.

University students Tay Zhi Qian and Shernice Lim met at Orchard Road because it was a “convenient location”. It was the first time the couple have seen each other physically after more than two months.

“We cherish the freedom,” Mr Tay said.

THE DAY RETAILERS HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR

For Hugo Boss, business has been brisk so far.

According to managing director of Hugo Boss Southeast Asia Steven Lam, although traffic has fallen, sales on Friday at their Orchard outlets have returned to January levels. About 60 per cent of customers who came into the stores on Friday purchased something.

“They come knowing what they want,” he said, adding that usually, about 80 per cent of those who enter the store leave without buying anything.

Hugo Boss has three outlets in Orchard Road – at Ngee Ann City, Paragon and ION Orchard.

Soon after the date of Phase 2 was announced, hair care service provider Papilla Haircare received “a lot of calls” for appointments, said its chief executive Elizabeth Leong. She and her business partner Kim Lim also run Illumia Therapeutics at Wheelock Place.

“Today is a huge relief for all of us,” she said. Her employees, who rely on commissions on top of their basic salary, are finally able to work again.

Mr Andrew Tan, managing director of furniture store atomi, said that Friday morning was off to a slow start, but it was expected as Singapore is “not out of the woods” yet in the fight against COVID-19.

“We are just happy we can get things running,” he said.

Mr Tan added that selling products online is not enough to sustain the business as it relies on a loyal customer base and people prefer to buy big-ticket items after touching and seeing the product physically.

All the business owners said that they had been busy the past few days getting their premises clean and ready for the reopening, and putting in place the necessary safe distancing measures.

Other sales employees 24newsreads.com spoke to, who did not want to be named as they were not authorised to speak, said that business on Friday was slower than normal. Although there were people constantly walking past their stores, only a handful went in.

Some stores also remained shuttered with no indication on when they will reopen. A notice on tea brand T2’s shopfront said that it will provide updates via its social media channels and email.

In the heartlands, shoppers made a cautious return to the stores, with no rush of people or snaking queues.

There were also fewer people than expected at hawker centres and coffee shops during lunchtime.

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