Covid-19: Thin crowds, sluggish sales on first day of Singapore's Jewel Changi Airport reopening

Not many people were at Jewel Changi Airport, including the Rain Vortex waterfall (pictured), when TODAY visited on June 14, 2021, the first day of its reopening after a month-long closure. ― TODAY pic
Not many people were at Jewel Changi Airport, including the Rain Vortex waterfall (pictured), when TODAY visited on June 14, 2021, the first day of its reopening after a month-long closure. ― TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, June 15 — On the first day of Jewel Changi Airport’s reopening after a month-long closure, the usually busy mall was quiet with thin crowds, and shopkeepers there reported slow business.

It was a welcomed reopening yesterday (June 14), but retailers interviewed by TODAY said that business was sluggish.

On Monday afternoon, the crowds were sparse and generally spread out, with visitors taking care to adhere to safe-distancing measures.

Crowds were also thin at the Rain Vortex waterfall, an indoor attraction, and TODAY spotted at least three pairs of safe-distancing ambassadors making their rounds through the mall.

More people seemed to be congregating around the first and basement level one floors, with a short queue of about eight people outside Rich & Good Cake Shop at about 12.30pm. There was also a crowd of about 30 inside the two-storey Apple store.

When contacted, Jewel said that footfall has been “encouraging”, but declined to provide any figures.

Most visitors approached by TODAY said that they felt reassured by precautions taken by Jewel to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

In a media release yesterday, Jewel said that it has stepped up precautionary measures at the mall, which include treating recirculated air and the purging of air-conditioned air two hours before opening hours.

The airport mall was closed on May 13 after a spate of Covid-19 cases at Changi Airport, which became the country’s largest active cluster at 108 cases. The closure was initially slated for two weeks, before being extended to June 13 to coincide with the end of Phase 2 (heightened alert).

While Jewel has reopened, Changi Airport’s passenger terminal buildings remain closed to the public.

The mall’s management noted in its release that “more than 2,500 workers at Jewel have since undergone the mandatory Covid-19 test, and none have tested positive”.

“Close to 90 per cent of eligible Jewel staff have also taken at least one dose of the vaccine,” it added.

Slow sales

A staff member at a gift and stationery shop within the mall, who requested anonymity as she was not authorised to speak to the media, said that sales had been “very bad” on the first day of reopening.

“So far today, I’ve only had one paying customer and the sales figure is only two digits,” she said when TODAY spoke to her at 5pm. She added that sales yesterday were much worse than before the closure, when there were about 10 to 12 sales a day.

She noted that mall-goers usually visit Jewel only to eat, and added that she is not optimistic that sales will pick up in the short term. Dining-in is due to resume on June 21 if the Covid-19 situation remains under control.

Echoing her sentiments, Aibeth, manager at shoe store Pedro, who declined to give her full name, said that there were fewer than five walk-in customers for the store by the middle of the day yesterday.

“While business was still minimal before the closure, we used to have more walk-ins. Today has been much slower than before the closure,” the 26-year-old added.

Alexis Kate, a 21-year-old retail assistant at Motherhouse, a bag and accessories shop, felt that overall numbers at the mall were higher than before the closure, although there were fewer customers at her shop.

Visitors generally not worried

Visitors at Jewel said that they were generally not worried about being there, especially with all the extra precautionary measures put in place by the management.

Chris Selvakumar, 28, who was at Jewel to get his iPad repaired at the Apple store, decided that it was a good time to visit to see how things were on the first day of reopening.

“I wasn’t really hesitant coming down, because the airport is known to be one of the cleanest places in Singapore. The mall has also been highly disinfected, so this is now one of the safest places to be,” the entrepreneur said.

Selvakumar also commended the decision to keep the airport terminals closed to the public, adding that it will help to “prevent leakage”.

S. Aashish and S. Sri, both 18, decided to visit Jewel to sightsee and catch up with each other.

“I was a little hesitant initially. It’s been a while since I stepped out of home. There are safe-distancing ambassadors monitoring the crowd, so that’s good, but we’re planning to leave before the evening crowd comes,” Aashish, a student, said.

Maggie Lee, a 57-year-old homemaker, said: “I wasn’t hesitant coming here. I’m very confident because I trust the management will have done a good job disinfecting the place.” She added that she came down because she missed the place.

Extension of rental waiver

The management of Jewel has announced that the full rental waiver, which was offered for the duration of the closure, will be extended for tenants for another week to coincide with the final week of the ban on dining-in.

“We believe in the importance of lending assistance to our tenants during such challenging times and we will continue to extend full rental waiver by an additional week, from June 14 to 20 and additional rental assistance for the week of June 21 to 27,” it added. ― TODAY

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