Businesses frequented by migrant workers badly hit

  • Singapore
  • Monday, 07 Sep 2020

EVEN while retail activity appears to be slowly recovering as the economy reopens, businesses previously frequented by migrant workers in areas like Chinatown and Little India continue to bleed, with workers choosing to shop and eat closer to where they stay instead, causing shops in central areas to shutter as a result.

Checks last week found empty premises and shop owners wondering when things will go back to normal, if ever.

A visit to People’s Park Complex on Wednesday and Friday revealed six to seven units closed on every floor with signs they were for rent.

Tenants at People’s Park Complex, Hong Lim Complex and other locations in Chinatown said they had been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic and business had not picked up even after progressive reopening in phases one and two.

“We thought footfall would increase but our customers are mainly migrant workers from China and many of them don’t come by any more, ” said Chris Tan, in his 30s, who runs a mobile phone shop at People’s Park Complex.

A former business owner in his 60s, who wanted to be known only as Wong, said he had closed his provision shop in Chinatown after a decade there because it was “too hard to survive”.

“You can’t do business when there’s no one coming to buy anything. Every day, you bleed money, ” said Wong, who said many of his customers were from different parts of China who came for cheap sundries and household products he imported directly from China.

A check by ST in Little India found that workers are still staying away even if they have been cleared of the virus. The popular Mustafa Centre was close to empty on a weekday night, while grocery stores and food outlets had only one to two customers.

“All this produce might end up rotting if it’s unsold, ” said Raju Ravichandran, 31, who runs a store selling fruit and vegetables.

He said his stall was once well-patronised by migrant workers, but business had not bounced back to pre-Covid-19 levels. He now counts himself “lucky” if he gets 10 customers a day.

“I’m not sure how long we can stay open if the crowds don’t come back.” — The Straits Times/ANN

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