‘The cake is getting smaller’: Some heart stalls worry about supermarkets coming on board CDC voucher program

SINGAPORE: For Ms. Nicole Sia, who owns a small clothing store in Ang Mo Kio, it was a relief to see more sales piling up after the launch of the Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers last December.

Each Singaporean household received S$100 in vouchers, intended to help them with their daily expenses while giving a boost to peddlers and heart traders.

“With the vouchers, people spend more,” said the owner of Peach Fashion, adding that some even spent the full S$100 at her store during the Chinese New Year period.

This led to a 10% increase in sales – something Ms Sia hopes to replicate with a new round of vouchers launched on Wednesday.

But she also fears that small businesses like hers will get a smaller slice of the pie when shoppers are allowed to use future tranches of CDC vouchers at large supermarkets in 2023 and 2024.

“Vouchers should be used to support small businesses rather than big chains because they don’t need help,” Ms Sia said.

“Now times are tough, help should go to us instead.”

Mr. Jackson Tan, owner of a nearby optical store, Vision Image, felt the same way.

He said business has been tough for the past two years, but sales have increased 10% in the past five months, thanks to good CDCs.

“I don’t think (the move) will be good for us… When people go to the supermarket, at some point they can use everything because there are a lot of things to buy,” he said. he adds.

Mr Nelson Goh, who runs Ryffles Optical at Ang Mo Kio, said: “(Major supermarkets) already have such good deals. If you include them, you can see the cake getting smaller and smaller.

There are currently over 16,000 hawkers and merchants who accept CDC vouchers.

At the Chinatown Complex, peddler Felicia Lee agreed the decision to include supermarkets could drive customers away from small businesses – although she understood the rationale for the change.

Ms. Lee, owner of the Da Jia Shi congee stand, said, “I get CDC vouchers myself and was wondering why NTUC, Sheng Siong, doesn’t have any. I am also a consumer. I myself would spend it at the supermarket… Everyone will go there.

The move follows feedback from residents, said Ms. Low Yen Ling, chairperson of the mayors’ committee and mayor of the Southwest District, on Wednesday.

Nonetheless, she told the media that support for small businesses “remains a key objective” as authorities prepare to launch the next round of vouchers, worth S$200, next year.

A possible solution could be to limit the amount that can be spent in supermarkets, said Ms Low, who is also Minister of State for Trade and Industry.

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