KUCHING: Every year, the Christmas season sees a boost in business with many people getting into the festive spirit by celebrating with their loved ones and exchanging gifts.
This year, however, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused many traders — particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs) — to miss out on the surge in sales.
On the other hand, as the Covid-19 situation eases here in Sarawak and the festive mood permeates the atmosphere, more people seem to be flocking to malls such as The Spring.
Advertising and Promotions manager at The Spring, Aida Azimah Mohd Abas, said that during the Covid-19 pandemic, the mall had seen a 30 percent decrease in footfall compared to last year.
“However, for the past four weeks since we launched our Christmas celebration, we have seen an increase in foot traffic,” she said when met by New Sarawak Tribune.
She said that although foot traffic was still not at its usual pre Covid-19 level, last week the mall managed to record slightly over 90 percent of the original level.
“So people are coming back, and I think the culture of gift-giving is still there and the Christmas spirit is definitely still there,” she said.
She said The Spring’s theme for this year’s Christmas was ‘Home for Christmas’ – explaining that this reflected spending time with loved ones.
“This also means that we hope the mall can be a safe haven for people. We have put a lot of focus on customer safety, such as changing our redemption mechanics to a contactless system through a web-based platform which allows shoppers to enter our redemption programmes from the safety and comfort of their own homes within the campaign period,” she said.
Aida said The Spring was unable to run its usual Christmas events such as firework display this year in an effort to adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and to avoid overcrowding.
Instead, she said the mall put most of its efforts and budget into its Christmas setup which was based on a Christmas town.
“A lot of people are unable to travel this year. So, we brought the travel to them through our Christmas town setup,” she said.
She said members of the public were very engaging this time around, posting photos they took with the mall’s decorations on social media and supporting the mall’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.
Besides this, she said the mall also focused on rewards and redemption programmes for shoppers, as well as a virtual advent calendar on social media with new content every day.
Aida hoped the pandemic would be over next year. If not, The Spring has Plan B on how business will be run and how to help its tenants.
Juliana Embrose, 53, a craft business owner, said her business had experienced approximately 70 percent drop in sales this festive season compared to the same period last year.
“Last Christmas was quite busy with lots of orders as many people would buy gifts during this time. This year, business is very sluggish. Last year, I could still travel and send my customers’ orders to Johor and Singapore but that is not possible this year,” she said.
Juliana said she sent goods to her customers outside Sarawak by mail, but due to the current circumstances, she relied mostly on the local market and regular customers to maintain her store.
“I hope things will be better next year so that everyone can be more successful in their business endeavours,” said Juliana.
Yap Chun Kiap, 55, a textile shop owner, said his business dropped by about 40 to 50 percent.
“During the festive season, sales usually pick up, but now a lot of people do not have jobs or money. It is a really difficult time for businesses and many of us are unable to do anything about it,” he said.
He said at India Street, where his shop was located, not many businesses utilised the online platform as most stores were old and it was too difficult for them to change.
“We just hang on and hope that next year will be better. We hope the vaccine will be available so that everything can return to normal and the economy can improve,” he said.
Elyssa Ashley, 22, a souvenir shop owner, said her sales revenue had dropped by 70 percent due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said that her sales had dropped drastically particularly because she sold souvenirs and there were fewer incoming tourists. She had to depend on the local market and online sales which did not amount to much revenue.
“At the end of the year, usually sales are higher as we receive more tourists and it is also the school holidays. But this year, it is very much different due to the pandemic,” she said.
Elyssa hoped the situation would return to normal as soon as possible so that more tourists would be able to visit Sarawak and boost the local economy.