In recent months, there have been several reports of hawkers and hawker centres not doing very well and some have indeed closed down. Commonly, the reasons cited are high rentals, and labour shortage.
The Online Citizen (TOC) has been following some of these stories and have written about them. We present them here for your convenience.
Is the hawker a dying occupation? What are your thoughts?
Sept 2013: Hai Bin Prawning closes due to high rent
Mr Wang Huiqing, the person in charge at the Bishan branch, said that the landlord gave an offer of $110,000 to renew the rental of the shop inclusive of the coffeeshop just beside it. Previously, the rental of the whole site which includes the prawning pond and the coffeeshop, was charged a monthly rental of $43,000.
Yuan explains that the decision was made because he could not find enough workers for the stall. This shortage of manpower was also the reason he had to shelf his expansion plans.
“You probably didn’t know, but we actually went as far as to put down a deposit for a second outlet at Lau Pa Sat,” he said, “only to eventually have to rescind due to a lack of manpower.”
Make no bones about it – this means that there’s even less breathing room for small, independent food businesses in Singapore, moving forward. And that their chances of success have just shrunk to an even more diminutive number.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why you see that every time a new mall opens in Singapore, the usual suspects when it comes to F&B options always appear – they’re the ones with sufficient capitalization, and have large central kitchens to supply pre-prepared food in sufficient quantities to cater to those needs.
Commercial rents have largely risen across the board, and especially within shopping malls, and even more so for food-related businesses.
When your lease is due for renewal and the mall landlord decides to squeeze you for more, how many more bowls of fishball noodles do you have to sell to cover that increase?
If even a large foodcourt operator such as Banquet struggles to manage these costs, what chance do small independent F&B businesses have?
When The Online Citizen (TOC) visited the hawker centre at lunch time on Tuesday, 1 April 2014, the scene was the same – empty tables, about one-third of the stalls closed. In fact, the empty stalls seem to have permanently moved out, leaving their stall space completely bare.
Five years on, it’s a far cry from its opening month back in 2009, where it was reported that 20,000 people had patronised the stalls; and it is nowhere near achieving its goal of being “a place for interaction and bonding amongst the residents as well.”
According to the Chinese paper, the owner of the business, Mr Koh Long Swee, said rent had increased from $4,800 to $6,500.
After paying utilities, their monthly costs total about $10,000.
The restaurant has survived increased rental in the past, by moving to alternative locations when rent was hiked. It has moved four times in the past but this latest hike in rent seems to have done the business in for good.
Mdm Yep gave two main reasons why they have decided to close the shop.
First, the rental of the shop will be increased from $8,000 per month to $12,000 per month in the 3 year contract that was offered to them. Ten years ago, her monthly rent was $3800.
Second, as the shop employs a few foreign workers to act as helpers, the rise in work levy will significantly increase her costs.
“Is there any burden placed upon the government by hiring of foreign workers to being with?” asked Mdm Yep.