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Photograph: Stephen Chin Siong Liung

What will things look like when shops reopen in Singapore?

Will it be business as usual now that 'non-essential' shops are allowed to reopen?

Delfina Utomo
Written by
Delfina Utomo
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When Singapore entered into circuit breaker mode, most retail shops and shopping malls temporarily ceased operations. Online shopping became a go-to but there's nothing better than being able to try on an outfit before you decide to but it, smell that bottle of perfume or walk around in that pair of comfy eco-friendly sandals. Before you rush to your nearest mall to bust your credit card, here's what's in store in the shopping scene in Singapore. Also – don't forget to bring your identification card for contact-tracing purposes.

RECOMMENDED What you can and cannot do in Singapore after the circuit breaker and Singapore reopening: social distancing rules explained and everything you can do now

Slowly but surely – with a lot of precaution
Photograph: Shutterstock

Slowly but surely – with a lot of precaution

Singapore embarks on Phase 2 of reopening its economy on Friday, which allows more business and social activities to resume – like shopping. Phase 2 sees retail malls and shops reopen but with strict safe distancing measures in place. 

People can also get together socially in groups of up to five, but individuals have to keep a safe distance of at least one metre from others, where feasible.

"Venues with high human traffic such as malls and large retail outlets will be subject to capacity limits, and operators must prevent crowds or long queues from building up," says the Ministry of Health.

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Prepare for screenings and checks
Photograph: CapitaLand

Prepare for screenings and checks

Can't wait to rush back to the malls for a whole day of retail therapy? Be prepared for plenty of checks and screenings to ensure the health and safety of all shoppers. 

SafeEntry is a national digital check-in system that logs in the entry of people to a venue. Before you're permitted to enter places like malls, you have to scan the SafeEntry QR code displayed at the venue or present your identification card with a barcode (e.g. NRIC, driver’s licence, student pass and work permit) for scanning purposes. If there is a confirmed case at that location or venue, contact tracing can be sped up using information from SafeEntry, which in turn prevents new clusters from forming. 

At the moment, SafeEntry is mandatory at most public buildings including supermarkets, selected wet markets, malls, hotels and more and this looks to be the new normal when it comes to going out. 

As Singapore's largest mall network, CapitaLand malls have continued to operate during the circuit breaker to serve the needs of Singaporeans who need to get some essential shopping done or takeaway food. Now that everyone is gearing up for the reopening of malls, CapitaLand has put some enhanced safety measures in place on top of contact tracing and temperature screening at the entrance. These measures include anti-microbial coating for high contact areas, disinfection floormat, UV disinfection robots, lift car disinfection with PhotoPlasma technology and automatic escalator handrail disinfection and contactless lift activation at The Atrium@Orchard. 

A more cautious approach
Photo: The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

A more cautious approach

Luxury retail mall, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is also gearing up to reopen from June 19 – after over two months of being closed. While the mall is looking forward to welcoming shoppers again, in the initial phase of the reopening, it's accessible only to members of Marina Bay Sands’ loyalty programme, Sands Rewards. 

This is to ensure safe distancing measures and limits in capacity are adhered to. Some tenants may still remain closed during this phase, mainly its F&B outlets and all other venues and attractions in the Integrated Resort (IR) such as the Hotel, Casino, ArtScience Museum and Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

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What are the local businesses up to?
Photo: Baju by Oniatta

What are the local businesses up to?

During the 'circuit breaker' many local businesses have had to pivot and open an online shopping platform to continue reaching out to their customers. 

Heritage perfumery store Sifr Aromatics in Arab Street started cataloguing its products for building its website when Covid-19 first broke out in Singapore. During the circuit breaker, the brand launched its webstore where regular customers can shop for their favourite scents and candles. 

The team at Punggol plant store House of Plants has also closed operations since the circuit breaker happened and took the store online. To ensure the trust of customers, they've uploaded pictures of every plant they have – so what you see is literally what you get. 

Batik store, Galeri Tokokita adopted a more organic approach. Though building a webstore was in the works, owner Oniatta Effendi found that the circuit breaker gave her the opportunity to get to know her clientele. Loyal customers began messaging her on updates of new pieces or on availability of pieces. She also used the period for a zero-waste opportunity – she turned the batik remnants from previous collections into pretty reusable cloth masks. With a small team, she single-handedly managed the orders for the first mask collections before getting some reinforcements when the demand became overwhelming. The store located in MOX Katong reopens on June 19 but on an appointment-only basis.

The pop-up scene
Photograph: The Social Exchange

The pop-up scene

While malls and shops are swiftly reopening, the pop-up market scene is not in a rush to resuming in Phase 2. The platform behind successful pop-up craft markets in town, The Social Exchange, has announced that it has no plans as yet to organise an event soon. However, the team is looking to venture online to bring together the makers and make shopping easier for customers. 

"Many of our vendors already have their own websites pre-circuit breaker so during this period they are focusing more on building their online sales. For some, they are using this time to create more new products or even offer online craft workshops. That said, most are still looking forward to having the physical event to showcase [their goods]," says Lynette, a spokesperson for The Social Exchange.

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"More people are shopping online but out of necessity since physical shopping has stopped. As much as the online world is full of great buys, nothing beats browsing and touching the physical products as well as the joy of instant gratification." – Lynette, The Social Exchange

How you can help
Photograph: Facebook/Zalora

How you can help

First things first – don't rush! Give establishments some time to adjust to the reopening. You're not the only one who is excited to touch all the clothes on the rack, feel the blast of mall air-con on your skin and hear the satisfying beep of your credit card being charged. Be mindful and patient when going out to malls even if it means queueing a little longer to get inside due to temperature screenings.

Secondly, just because you can go out now, it doesn't mean you should. More than anything, the circuit breaker period has taught us to be more conscious of our spending. We've had to evaluate what 'essential' really means and though the shops may be calling out to you now, there's no harm in reusing last season's clothes. 

Lastly, with so many shops ceasing operations, local independent businesses took the biggest hit. Well-loved and socially conscious clothing label Matter Prints recently announced its closure via social media. Despite its popularity, co-founder Ho Renyung said in an email that "the combination of cash flow bottlenecks, supply chain issues and soft demand for premium-priced apparel" led them to the difficult decision. There's never been a better time to rally behind our local makers and businesses and support them through these times. Check in on your neighbourhood convenience store, explore the wonderful homegrown labels we have and start shopping local!

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