‘The pie is getting smaller’: Some heartland stalls fret over supermarkets coming onboard CDC voucher scheme

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

Each Singaporean household received S$100 in vouchers, which are meant to help with their daily expenses while giving heartland hawkers and merchants a boost.

“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.

It added up to a 10 per cent increase in sales – which Ms Sia hopes will happen again with a new round of vouchers launched on Wednesday.

But she is also concerned 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 major supermarkets in 2023 and 2024.

“The vouchers should be used to support small businesses instead of big chains because they don’t need the help,” said Ms Sia.

“Now it’s hard times, the help should go more to us instead.”

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

He said business has been tough the past two years, but sales have grown 10 per cent in the last five months, thanks to the CDC vouchers.

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

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

There are currently more than 16,000 hawkers and merchants that accept CDC vouchers.

At Chinatown Complex, hawker Felicia Lee agreed that the move to include supermarkets could draw customers away from smaller businesses – although she understood the rationale behind the change.

Ms Lee, who owns congee stall Da Jia Shi said: “I myself get CDC vouchers and I was thinking how come NTUC, Sheng Siong, don’t have. I’m also a consumer. I myself would spend it at the supermarket … Everyone will go there.”

The move comes in response to feedback from residents, said Ms Low Yen Ling, chairperson of the Mayors’ Committee and Mayor of the South West District, on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, she told the media that supporting small businesses “remains a key focus” as authorities prepare to launch the next set of vouchers, worth S$200, next year.

One possible solution could be to limit how much can be spent at supermarkets, said Ms Low, who is also Minister of State for Trade and Industry.

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