Black Friday sale on Singapore’s Orchard Rd: Shoppers better at grabbing deals than keeping safe distance

People making their way into Ngee Ann City mall at about 5.30pm on November 27, 2020. — TODAY pic
People making their way into Ngee Ann City mall at about 5.30pm on November 27, 2020. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Nov 28 — With online shopping having caught on since people are staying home more due to the Covid-19 pandemic, heading out to shop in person might seem rather quaint.

Well, for those who prefer to get out of home to do a spot of early Christmas shopping or to take advantage of a good deal, they will not be held back, especially not on Black Friday.

One of the biggest sales events around, it falls on the day after the Thanksgiving Day holiday in the United States and has become popular among retailers elsewhere to keep the tills ringing.

At Takashimaya department store in Ngee Ann City mall along the Orchard Road shopping belt here, the crowds were unrelenting.

Santhiya Subra, a 29-year-old social worker who was there, said: “For a moment, it felt like there was no Covid.”

Having spent S$300 (RM910) on household items, she said that there was no safe distancing in the store, with people standing close to each other and five people “attacking” one item at a time.  

The Nespresso booth in Takashimaya department store on November 27, 2020. — TODAY pic
The Nespresso booth in Takashimaya department store on November 27, 2020. — TODAY pic

When TODAY visited Takashimaya in the afternoon, there was a steady stream of shoppers entering the premises. Some sections such as those where household items and kitchenware were, as well as the boutique counter for coffee machine brand Nespresso, were visibly more popular with shoppers.

Some of the customers were clearly not bothered with keeping a safe distance from each other. At the lines to pay up, groups of people were also not keeping at least 1m apart.

On the other hand, Raima, a 48-year-old housewife who goes by a single name, said that the shoppers she encountered in the household and footwear sections were behaving in an orderly manner during her visit that afternoon. 

A Takashimaya staff member in her 50s who declined to be named said that the number of shoppers at the department store for Black Friday was smaller compared with the same event in previous years.

Across the road at Robinsons, which had announced last month that it is closing its operations for good, more than 70 people were queueing to enter at about 3pm.Crowds at Robinsons were also smaller and at cashier counters, patrons were keeping 1m apart in queues.

The only exception was the Swarovski counter on the first floor where there was a 40 per cent discount for items. TODAY observed 15 people standing close to each other even though a security officer was looking at them.

Cindy Lee, 32, a project officer, who has been visiting Robinsons for its Black Friday sale over the last three years, said that this year was visibly less crowded given the lack of tourists, so she need not jostle with people like in the past.

Wendy Ng, a 58-year-old promoter at the department store for over a decade, also noted that crowds were reduced this year, although this was likely because there were fewer items on offer with the store shutting down soon and many people had already been there to shop for a last time in the past month.

In some other shops along Orchard Road, the volume of human traffic as the weekend approached were mixed.

People queueing to enter Victoria's Secret store located at Mandarin Gallery, at around 4pm on November 27, 2020. — TODAY pic
People queueing to enter Victoria's Secret store located at Mandarin Gallery, at around 4pm on November 27, 2020. — TODAY pic

At lingerie label Victoria’s Secret, 20 people stood patiently to be allowed into the store at around 4pm.

Among those who had waited in the queue was entrepreneur Feloni Susilo, who left the store with S$250 worth of merchandise.

The 29-year-old said that she had already spent S$1,000 on the online sites of American stores such as Nordstrom and planned to make more purchases in person at stores such as sportswear shop Lululemon located at Ion Orchard mall.

When asked if she felt that she needed to budget her purchases given the weak economy, she said: “I don’t think I need to as I can find ways to earn back my money.”

Other stores along the shopping belt were quieter, with clothing store Superdry, footwear retailer Foot Locker and electronics retailer Courts having no queues when TODAY visited after 4pm.

Jump in online sales

For e-commerce sites cashing in on the Black Friday event, a number of them contacted by TODAY said that there was a surge in sales immediately after midnight on Friday.

Lazada reported an almost seven-fold increase in the first two hours of the sale compared with last year, while Shopee said that visits to its site in the first hour of sale were close to three times that of last year.

Qoo10 saw more than a three-fold increase in demand for items such as sports equipment, food and groceries during Black Friday, but it is projecting sales to be 4 per cent weaker than last year.

“We are seeing potential signs of buyer’s fatigue and a waned interest in Black Friday. Some sellers are concerned about the impact of the weakened economy due to Covid-19,” it said in a press release. — TODAY

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