SINGAPORE - Retailers here expect more Malaysians to come here to shop once the high-speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is operational by 2020.
Mid-range fashion brands and consumer electronics are likely to benefit the most. Industry watchers also expect twin-city loyalty schemes to be rolled out to further entice shoppers and a surge in attendance at events like the Great Singapore Sale.
Against such an optimistic backdrop, Singapore Polytechnic's senior retail lecturer Sarah Lim predicts a 15 per cent rise in spending by Malaysian tourists.
The 1.14 million Malaysian visitors in 2011 spent $893 million - 29 per cent on shopping, 25 per cent on accommodation and 11 per cent on food and beverage - according to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
Asked what impact the new link will have on tourism here, the STB said it will do an assessment when more details of the project - which will cut travelling time between the two cities to 90 minutes - are known.
But Orchard Road Business Association's executive director Steven Goh has no doubts that it is a win-win move for both cities. He said Malaysians who shop here now are generally well-heeled and fly over for a weekend.
"It will bring in a new demographic of Malaysian shoppers. Those who buy mass-market brands can now come to Singapore on a whim."
Singapore Retailers Association executive director Lau Chuen Wei said Singapore is known for selling the latest consumer electronic items and these are coveted by Malaysians.
Mr R. Dhinakaran, managing director of Jay Gee Melwani Group whose fashion brands include Levi's and Aldo, said Malaysians account for 5 per cent of sales at its 130 outlets here.
He expects the figure to go up to 15 per cent.
He is planning a twin-city loyalty scheme and will tweak prices so that they are the same in both countries. Prices in Malaysia are currently about 10 per cent lower.
Ms Helen Khoo, executive director of Wing Tai Retail which manages 16 brands including Topshop and Dorothy Perkins, said the new link may help the firm snag regular tourist customers.
"The railway will allow Malaysians to come here for day trips without having to worry about booking a hotel."
But Mr Simon Bell, director of strategy at Landor Associates, a global branding consultancy, cautioned that brands need to understand who the main traveller will be on the high-speed train.
"Will it be business users or casual shoppers?" he asked.
There is also the issue of whether the Singapore dollar will be much stronger than the Malaysian ringgit by 2020.
"In that case, it will be Singaporean consumers travelling to KL to take advantage of retail shopping there."
Still, news of the new link has gone down well with Malaysians like Mr Eric Lim, 28, a marketing manager who lives in KL.
He said he will come here every two months if the fares are reasonable. "My favourite place is Orchard Road. It has brands like Abercrombie & Fitch that we don't have in KL."
Jessica Lim and Sabrina Tiong
The Straits Times
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