Retail sector fears more closures, job losses with extension of curbs

Latest extension of curbs could lead to more closures, job losses in retail sector

The latest month-long extension of Covid-19 curbs, following round after round of tightened curbs this year, could sound the death knell for many businesses, said retailers and retail associations.

Singapore's front-line business community is "in deep despair and disrepair", said the Singapore Tenants United For Fairness (SGTUFF) group in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

The group was responding to the Government's announcement on Wednesday that Covid-19 restrictions - such as capping group sizes for social gatherings and dining in at two people - will be extended until Nov 21. In a Facebook statement, SGTUFF said the extension "will sink the boat for many of us who have been barely hanging on".

"Just this year alone, we have been badly hit by four waves of restrictions of increasing severity and negative impact to traffic and business," said the statement, which added that the vast majority of business owners "will still have to dig deeper into whatever they have left in their own pockets to pay for staff salaries, rentals and many other overheads".

The executive director of Singapore Retailers Association, Ms Rose Tong, echoed the group's sentiments, saying: "The retail sector is already in dire straits, and the latest announcement is going to (sound) the death knell for so many businesses. More retailers will be decimated and we anticipate potential job losses."

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry also announced the Government will offer wage support of 25 per cent under the extended Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) for sectors significantly affected by the continuing curbs. These include businesses in the food and beverage, retail, and gym and fitness sectors.

SGTUFF called for urgent help in several areas such as rental subsidies for four weeks; higher wage support of 50 per cent under the JSS instead of the current 25 per cent; and moratoriums on existing bank loans.

However, Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, had more immediate concerns. He hoped the Government can reassess some restrictions, such as allowing those in a family unit of five or six to dine together.

"We remain committed to give active feedback to the Government and hope it can calibrate (the response) and is prepared to relax measures in one or two weeks' time," Mr Wee said.

Retailers, however, are at a loss as to how to move forward.

"With each round of tightened measures, we see footfall plummeting, along with the sales," said Ms Gin Lee, founder and designer of home-grown fashion label GINLEE Studio.