Great Singapore Sale (GSS)
Launched in 1994, the Great Singapore Sale (GSS) is an annual event in Singapore. Aimed at promoting the retail and tourist industries, the sale attracts both locals and tourists. Product range and participating retailers at the Sale have expanded over the years. Discounts of up to 70% are offered on a wider range of products, from food and apparels to hotel stays and organised shopping tours. Participating retailers now include those in suburban residential estates as well.
The first GSS in 1994 was organised by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in conjunction with the Singapore Retailers Association. An amount of $3 million was spent to market the GSS in the region and Australia. The investment paid off, with a record of 664,000 visitors (a 9.1% over the same period in 1993) and a higher turnover for retailers. The success of the event prompted organisers to hold the event annually.
In its early years, the GSS was a month-long event and launched on a Sunday after the June school holidays. Department stores that participated in the GSS were limited to those in the Orchard Road shopping belt, such as Tangs, Takashimaya, Robinsons, and Isetan, as well as shopping malls just outside of Orchard Road, such as Junction 8, Liang Court and Capitol Building.
The scale of the GSS has expanded over the years, with some changes to event details in a bid to capture more shoppers. Timed to coincide with the school holidays (primarily targeting Singaporeans), the GSS was subsequently launched on a Friday to capitalise on the weekend that followed. The sale period was extended to two months, with major malls opened till near midnight. Participating retailers have also expanded to include suburban malls in the heartlands, making the sale a truly islandwide event.
Making Singapore a shopping destination
To locals and foreigners alike, the GSS markets Singapore as a shoppers' paradise, and promises a total shopping experience encompassing competitive prices, variety, quality and ambience. Resourceful local shoppers plan for their purchases at the GSS well ahead in order to maximise their savings. Similarly, visitor perception surveys conducted by STB in recent years show that some regional tourists do schedule their visits to Singapore to coincide with the GSS, with shopping being one of their key activities. It is estimated that tourists make up 30% of shoppers at the GSS, with the three most popular items being fashion apparel, consumer electronics and jewellery. The top visitor generating markets are Indonesia, India, China, Australia and Malaysia.
Besides discounts for merchandise and services, the annual GSS include promotional events to encourage shopping, such as lucky draws and instant rewards programmes. An event that has become the mainstay of the annual GSS is the Great Singapore Shopping Challenge. Competing for the grand prize of S$10,000, local and foreign teams hunt down the best bargains for specified product categories with a given shopping budget. Festivals also complement the annual GSS, such as the Singapore Arts Festival, Singapore Food Festival and Singapore HeritageFest.
Amidst stiff competition from neighbouring countries, creative ways of retailing is necessary to market Singapore as a shopping haven, particularly during times of economic downturn. In 2009, in view of the poor global economy and the global Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak, participating hotels offer attractive two day/one night weekend stays for Singaporeans to enjoy affordable "staycations". A local newspaper showed that Singaporeans took up the offer, and two hotels reported that about 80% of their bookings from late May to early June were by Singaporeans. For tourists, a Tourist Privilege Card that gives exclusive tourist discounts and souvenirs is readily available at any Singapore Visitor Centre. Tax refunds and rebates are also given on purchases made on upmarket brands.
Retail sales from the Great Singapore Sale
Retail sales from the GSS have had to succumb to global concerns such as the economic health of Asian countries and virus pandemics. Sales saw marginal improvements in the initial years of the GSS, perhaps due to the Asian Financial Crisis (1997), took a plunge in 2003 due to the SARS outbreak, and increased significantly from 2004 onwards. Retail sales from the GSS was S$2 billion in 1996, but soared to S$4.6 billion in 2004 (with tourists' shopping expenditure contributing S$650 million). Total retail sales from the GSS after 2004 have been above S$5 billion, at S$5.5 billion in 2007 and S$5.8 billion in 2008.
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The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or a complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.