SINGAPORE: It is Christmas Eve, and thousands of shoppers are out in droves picking gifts for their family and friends.
But retailers said business had been good even in the weeks leading up to this festive season, with many shoppers relentless in their quest to find that perfect gift.
Michelle Pilbeam, a tourist from Australia, said: “(I’m looking for) a thoughtful gift, so a gift that's considered a surprise, and something that will mean something to them."
Last-minute shopping in Singapore's most famous shopping district in Orchard Road is not for the faint-hearted, unless one is ready to brave the crowds.
But beyond shopping for presents at the eleventh hour, some said they were also there to soak up the festive atmosphere.
Sharon Dunleavy, an Irish living in Singapore, said: "(It) gives a bit of excitement to Christmas to shop on Christmas Eve, (there’s) a great buzz around the place, all the decorations and to see everybody out. (There’s) a great Christmas spirit around."
For shoppers and retailers alike, gift-buying is serious business, and some shoppers said they would be spending more on gifts this year.
Catherine Liew, a student, said: "It's because the budget gets higher because of the ability to buy, and the thing is that better things are more expensive."
Another shopper, Felicia Tan said: "My salary is much more this year, honestly, so I'm spending a bit more."
That spending mood has translated into brisk business for retailers.
American home furnishings retailer Crate & Barrel's first Christmas in Asia has been an upbeat one, with sales doubling starting from October.
To cope with this peak shopping period, the store's manager said it had to increase its staff strength by some 20 per cent.
Samuel Stephen Wright, general manager at Crate & Barrel Singapore, said: "We're seeing a huge interest in all the bar accessories, glasses, cocktail shakers; and a lot of our textiles like the accent pillows, especially the ones themed for Christmas, have done really well."
The festive mood is not lost on suburban malls either.
AMK Hub increased its budget by 20 per cent for Christmas decorations, and it has seen a doubling of sales compared to last year.
Since its opening in 2006, AMK Hub said its Christmas sales have increased every year, and to maintain this growth, it has invested in festive decorations.
This December, it has seen an increase in human traffic by at least 10 per cent compared to last year.
Andy Kau, centre director of AMK Hub, said: “We have a whole range of offers specially catered for our shoppers here. They don't have to travel all the way to town, they can get many of the items here that's available.
“We have also worked out with the tenants on the special buys exclusively available in AMK Hub."
Tenants in AMK Hub have also said they have seen more crowds with bigger purchasing power.
At City Square Mall, which stands on the old site of what was once an amusement park, an outdoor carnival has been recreated.
Mall operators said apart from festive decorations, they also wanted to inject an element of fun for families.
And more neighborhood malls have also been focusing not just on decorating their facades, but on having decorations that are interactive as well.
Uncle Ringo, a carnival equipment rental and events planning company, has had its services fully booked since March this year.
Joyce Lee, sales and marketing manager at Uncle Ringo, said: "What we see in recent years is that malls are shifting away from just decorating the place to look beautiful, they also want to inject some fun elements where they have engaging activities for families.
“From what I see here at City Square Mall, this move has been great, because over the weekends, it's always so crowded, so I'm sure the shoppers enjoy these activities." - CNA/nd
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