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Singapore As Swiftonomics sweeps through Singapore, small businesses say concerts a boon and a bane for them

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While many small businesses have thrived in Swift’s presence, some have seen a swifter fall in business
The mixed impact is keenly felt by the business near the concert venue, with various F&B outlets reporting differing outcomes depending on their target audience
Some have bemoaned a loss in business as large crowds and lack of parking have kept regulars away
However, businesses such as accessory and apparel shops have seen a boom in sales

SINGAPORE: Swiftonomics has swept through Singapore after the American pop star performed six sold-out shows here, but for small businesses, the spoils are not equally shared.

While many have thrived in Taylor Swift’s presence — among them hotels and retailers that sell clothing and accessories popular with Swifties, there were also some that felt a swifter fall in business, especially for those located around the National Stadium where the concert was held.

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As Swiftonomics sweeps through Singapore, small businesses say concerts a boon and a bane for them
As Swiftonomics sweeps through Singapore, small businesses say concerts a boon and a bane for them
A near-empty seafood restaurant in Kallang Wave Mall, on Mar 8, 2024. (Photo: TODAY/Raj Nadarajan)

While many small businesses have thrived in Swift’s presence, some have seen a swifter fall in business
The mixed impact is keenly felt by the business near the concert venue, with various F&B outlets reporting differing outcomes depending on their target audience
Some have bemoaned a loss in business as large crowds and lack of parking have kept regulars away
However, businesses such as accessory and apparel shops have seen a boom in sales
Justin Ong Guang-Xi
10 Mar 2024 06:47PM (Updated: 10 Mar 2024 08:58PM)
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SINGAPORE: Swiftonomics has swept through Singapore after the American pop star performed six sold-out shows here, but for small businesses, the spoils are not equally shared.

While many have thrived in Taylor Swift’s presence — among them hotels and retailers that sell clothing and accessories popular with Swifties, there were also some that felt a swifter fall in business, especially for those located around the National Stadium where the concert was held.

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The net economic benefit of Swift’s concerts here has been under the spotlight since it was revealed that Singapore struck an exclusivity deal and provided grants to Swift’s concert promoter to make Singapore her only stop in Southeast Asia.

Minister of Community, Culture and Youth Edwin Tong had said in Parliament on Monday (March 4) that Swift’s concerts were expected to bring economic benefits that would outweigh the size of the grant given to her promoter.

Economists have estimated large gains for hospitality-related businesses like airline companies, hotel chains and retail stores.

At the same time, there have been questions posed by commentators online about whether the spoils will trickle down to the small businesses or the man on the street.

Based on 15 businesses that TODAY spoke to, ranging from food and beverage firms to healthcare businesses, the outcomes are mixed.

One staff member at the dim sum restaurant told TODAY on Friday (Mar 8) that many regular customers cancelled bookings upon hearing about Swift’s Eras Tour, having anticipated the large crowds and difficulties in parking.

“If we don’t warn them about the concert, some customers get angry when they have to wait for an hour to drive in and find parking, and those who find out about the concert say that they will come another time,” she said.

At the same time, she said that most of the concertgoers are younger and do not have the spending power to dine at a seafood restaurant before or after the concert.

She added that while the restaurant could fill around 10 tables when there are no events, on the nights that Swift performed, business plummeted to an average of two tables of customers per night. Such slow business was the worst that the restaurant has experienced post-pandemic.

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When TODAY visited the restaurant an hour before the concert began on Friday, it had zero customers at the start of its dinner service.

On the other hand, cheaper hawker fare was a hit among the younger demographic of concertgoers.

Food stalls at My Kampung food court at Kallang Wave Mall saw an increase in sales that they have never seen before.

A stallholder at the Malaysian street food stall said that sales had increased by “significantly more” than when Coldplay was in town, believing that it is because younger fans prefer to eat cheap.

Maybe after a four-hour concert, people get tired and they want to go home,” said Mr Andy Han, owner of sports bar Bar Soccer.

“And the concert demographic being younger females, a soccer bar isn’t a place that they want to go.”

He added that other concerts like Coldplay’s have a higher average age and relatively more male attendees, which meant better business for his establishment.

While the week Coldplay played here in January saw an increase in sales by fourfold compared to a non-event week, Swift’s concerts only gave the bar a twofold boost.

Swift’s concert was also underwhelming for darts and karaoke bar Good Cheer at Stadium, which saw patronage fall by about 40 to 50 per cent.

Bar regulars simply did not want to contend with the large crowds and lack of parking and went to other bars away from the area instead, said one staff member. “Good Cheer is a darts bar, so it is probably not the right target audience,” he added.

Another business that was battered by the throngs of Swift fans was a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinic at the mall, which saw a 50 per cent fall in appointments over the past week.

Citing similar reasons such as clients being unwilling to be stuck in traffic jams or jostle with the crowd, a staff member at Kin Teck Tong TCM Clinic said such disruptions have become more common due to the regular large-scale events following the pandemic.

BOOM FOR BEADS, CRAFTS AND APPAREL BUSINESSES
In contrast, it was boomtown for businesses that sell apparel and craft worn by Swifties, which experienced impressive sales in the lead-up and during the course of Swift’s six-day concert.

At Bugis Street, several shops that sold sequinned apparel often worn by Swift concertgoers experienced a revenue boost, even though their businesses traditionally catered to an older crowd.

One such shop is Ross Boutique, which typically sold such attires for an older demographic for dinner and dances or other social events.

But the influx of younger locals and foreigners over the last two weeks has boosted business by 30 per cent.

“It’s the first time we are having such a concert where everyone is trying to copy her style,” said shop owner Ross Yeo. “It just so happens that we sell such apparel.”

For jewellery and accessories shop Koi Ming enterprise at People’s Park Centre in Chinatown, its owners have also been humming to the tune of a 30 per cent growth in business.

Now that the concerts are over, however, the surge in business has also started to taper off, said co-owner Alan Chin, who is in his 40s.

But he is still grateful for the temporary boost in business that he said was the biggest he has experienced in decades.

Mr Chin said he began to play Swift’s songs as the background music in his store, even though he was never a fan in the past.

“After listening to her songs, I find that I really like them,” said Mr Chin, adding that his favourite Swift hits now are Enchanted and Cruel Summer.

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