Almost seven in 10 (67%) Singapore business owners expect 2021 annual sales to increase compared to pre-pandemic annual sales in 2019—an improvement from 53% in 2020.
The top reasons for their optimism in 2021 are the increase in revenue from expanding their businesses online (46%), support from new customers (44%), and continued support from regular customers (40%).
This is according to the second Shop Small Business Recovery Research for Singapore conducted by American Express with 300 local business leaders from July to August 2021. However, most businesses remain cautiously optimistic about the future.
Almost six in 10 (59%) Singapore business leaders describe their companies as surviving, with new waves of COVID-19 being their main challenge in 2021. In fact, 41% had considered closing their businesses from January to August 2021 due to pandemic volatility.
Ho Yat-Wai, Country Manager, American Express Singapore, said: “While local businesses are more optimistic after almost two years since the pandemic started, its volatility weighs heavily on business leaders’ minds, including ours. The recent spike in cases is an example of the fluidity of the situation and difficulty in planning.
“Businesses need help—especially now in these volatile times. American Express is hopeful that Shop Small will provide businesses with an extra boost so they can eventually shift to thriving in the future—and not just surviving. We are mindful of shoppers’ safety, so for those who are planning to go out, we encourage you to follow safe distancing measures to keep you and your family safe.”
American Express organised the first Shop Small to Singapore last year where its card members made over 80,000 purchases at about 2,000 local businesses during the one-month long campaign.
This year, American Express will expand its offer to over 3,000 businesses. Card members will get S$3 back for every S$10 spent at participating businesses, up to five times, from 5 October to 5 November 2021.
Customers: Top Supporter For Businesses
Considering that the second top challenge cited by businesses in 2021 is the lack of tourists, it is not surprising that businesses cited their regular customers and new customers (63%) as their biggest supporters. So, it is especially important for residents to continue to support businesses during this challenging time.
Ka-Soh Restaurants’ third-generation owner Cedric Tang said, “With COVID-19, we had to put together a quick strategic plan to find additional revenue streams by collaborating with various partners, while staying true to the core of our business—our food. Throughout these changes, our customers have provided overwhelming support for our business, and we are deeply appreciative of this.”
Looking ahead, 71% of respondents shared they are optimistic they can thrive in the new normal—with 76% having made adjustments to sustain their business in the next 12 months. The top two changes businesses plan to make in the new normal are to focus more on e-commerce and communicate more with customers via social media.
Brianna Wong, co-founder of The Closet Lover, said, “We faced many challenges but also learned new lessons. When the lockdown started, we held weekly live sessions on social media to stay connected with our customers.
“It was not only heart-warming to see them join us every week, but these sessions have also helped us to learn what our customers want. Their consistent feedback has helped shape our product line and omnichannel experience.”
Uncertainty Changes Long-Term Business Strategy
Unsurprisingly, only four in 10 (45%) business leaders now have a clear long-term strategy compared to eight in 10 (84%) before the pandemic. Among those who do not currently have a business plan, 23% cite the uncertainty from the pandemic as a key reason. Another 25% changed their business strategy to become more agile to better respond to changes, rather than focusing on long-term planning.
ASTONS Founder and CEO Aston Soon said, “Since the start of pandemic, we expected it to linger for three years. So, we foresee an uncertain journey, full of challenges ahead. To ensure we can continue to sustain growth, we need to remain innovative and nimble to tackle challenges, while taking calculated risks with a robust long-term plan and continued investments for the business.” The company opened a new outlet at Joo Chiat Road in July 2021.
ASTONS, Ka-Soh Restaurants and The Closet Lover are participating businesses in the 2021 Shop Small offer.