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Retail scene here lagging behind regional rivals

I refer to the report that Dubai-based conglomerate Al-Futtaim Group will close two John Little stores and a Marks & Spencer outlet in the months ahead (“S’pore’s retail sector ‘unsustainable, with too many malls’”, March 18).

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

I refer to the report that Dubai-based conglomerate Al-Futtaim Group will close two John Little stores and a Marks & Spencer outlet in the months ahead (“S’pore’s retail sector ‘unsustainable, with too many malls’”, March 18).

Robinsons closed its outlet at Marina Bay Sands in May 2013, while Japanese fashion brand Lowrys Farm closed down eight outlets this year.

I share Mr Kesri Kapur’s sentiments that Singapore is “over-retailed” with too many shopping malls promoting similar types of goods and services.

There are many shoppers thronging our malls, but few buyers. What discourages shoppers are high prices and limited variety, with the same large chains and conglomerates dominating most malls. It is not an exaggeration to say that in Singapore, if you visit two big shopping malls, you would have seen them all. As such, locals begin to lose interest in buying while tourists have more choices in other Asian cities.

Also, according to the Economic Survey of Singapore 2013, labour is a major cost component in most of the services industries, especially in the labour-intensive retail trade, and the accommodation and food services industries where it accounts for more than 30 per cent of total business costs.

Rentals are also a key cost component for selected services industries, notably the retail trade, and the accommodation and food services industries. The small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in these two industries face rental shares of 32 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively.

I personally have witnessed many SMEs closing their doors because of rental costs.

The Government could help to rein in rental and business costs. Other cities in this region are offering better service and variety at cheaper prices, and progress waits for no one.

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