Friday, January 2, 2009

'No GST' at T3 fails to pull in shoppers

By Nicholas Yong A PROMOTION to attract non-travellers to shop at Terminal 3 has not taken off, say retailers at the airport's newest and largest terminal.

More than eight weeks into the promotion launched by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), retail outlets that The Straits Times spoke to said that shopper numbers remain largely unchanged.

The promotion offered GST-free shopping at 27 of the more than 30 retail outlets for an unlimited period.

'We don't really see customers coming in to make purchases because of the promotion and not many seem to be aware of it,' said regional manager for Sunglass Hut Singapore Alice Lim.

Absorbing the goods and service tax in exchange for a rental discount from CAAS has not been enough to overcome the overall slide in retail sales islandwide due to the economic downturn.

T3 is still some way from being fully utilised. Five airlines currently operate there, one of them being Singapore Airlines, which operates around half of all the flights going out of Changi.

Overall passenger traffic at Changi dipped 6.1 per cent last month, in tandem with the global decline in air travel.

To bring in more shoppers, CAAS is planning a fresh push on the No GST promotion in February/March next year. Details are to be confirmed.

Retailers are hoping this will help as the earlier effort has not made much of a difference in sales, said perfume and cosmetics giant Nuance-Watson.

Shoppers like customer service officer Ms Ng, 33, found out about the No GST scheme only because she happened to be at the airport.

'I have not seen ads about it. If they publicise the promotion more, I think people would come,' she said.

A spokesman for a leading chain of retail outlets, who declined to be named, said T3 is suffering from a lack of the right marketing.

'This is mainly an issue of publicity: What do we want consumers to remember T3 for?' he asked.

'We need publicity from big-scale events that will make people start talking about T3 and come down specially and repeatedly.'

The media campaign for the NoGST promotion has been advertised in the press, magazines and direct mailers, as well as window ads on several MRT trains.

This is in addition to being tagged onto all shopping promotional materials within the airport.

Retail outlets are now planning their own promotions in conjunction with the scheme.

Some are concentrating their efforts on airport employees who have their meals at the terminal and may shop there.
However, the retailers agreed that publicity is the key to the success of the scheme.

Swatch Singapore vice-president Pauline Ong pointed out: 'Up until now, there is still not much awareness. If there is more, the scheme will fly.'

This article was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 24, 2008.

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