Businesses scramble to meet earlier reopening date

Singapore

THE earlier-than-expected Phase Two of Singapore's reopening, though a pleasant surprise, may see some frontline businesses scramble to prepare to reopen.

Some of them had expected this to come around the last week of June, given the indication from the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 last month. But on Monday, it announced that Singapore will move into the second phase of its circuit break exit this Friday, albeit with safe-management measures, group size and capacity limits. It means frontline businesses now have as little as three days to prepare.

"We're surprised that it's so soon. We thought that it might be June 22 and beyond, and we were preparing the team for that," said Scanteak chief executive Jamie Lim. "It's still good news, but the important thing is that we also need to open safely."

"Most restaurateurs have been waiting for this for quite a while, but from my point of view, giving a bit more lead time would make the reopening a bit less chaotic," said Soup Spoon managing director Andrew Chan. The Friday reopening comes ahead of Father's Day on the weekend.

Yoogane boss Alex Lee said he's scrambling to recall workers - some which are stuck in Malaysia - for Friday. "We expect there to be huge crowds everywhere on Friday , so we also need to prepare the staff accordingly," he added.

Some businesses are not sure if they will have to delay their reopening. Lai Wei Chang, director of retailer Otaku House, said he will have to weigh issues such as staffing, restocking the stores and adhering to the safe-management measures.

Meanwhile, Yum Cha Restaurant already has online food orders queued up for Father's Day. Deputy director Melody Tan said: "We don't know if people will cancel their orders and prefer to dine in. We have to cope with a large amount of delivery orders and dine-in crowd, which is a first for us."

Safe-distancing measures will be a priority, especially as some businesses expect pent-up consumer demand to translate into crowds, at least for the initial one to two weeks. They are also wary that a resurgence of virus cases may spark a second lockdown.

The Singapore Cricket Club, which has had to cancel international tournaments and events, said feedback has shown that "a lot of members" are waiting to return to the club. It now has a dedicated tent for temperature screening and SafeEntry check-ins; seating in food outlets has also been spaced out, among other measures.

Customers have also been enquiring online about when Mothercare will reopen its stores, said managing director Pang Fu Wei. The baby products retailer had been awarded with the SG Clean quality mark before the circuit breaker, and will continue adhering to those standards, he said.

Soup Spoon's staff may wear face shields on top of masks; screens may also be put up at certain outlets. Mr Chan said: "The staff are now quite well-trained in safety measures, but with the crowds going to be higher, there's going to be more interaction between staff and customers. We are going to tighten up things to make sure we protect staff properly."

But after those initial weeks, businesses may once again have to think of how to sustain activity. Businesses BT spoke to cited the inconvenience of safe-distancing rules, the weak economy and worries over virus cases resurfacing as factors that could dampen consumer sentiment.

"The real question is, will the demand be sustainable after the initial weekend or two, and how to plan for the rest of the year," said Mr Pang. "Uncertainty is the worst for businesses."

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