News that a COVID19 vaccine had been developed was met with a mixture of relief, joy and excitement. To some, it signalled the end of the nightmare brought on by the onset of the pandemic. Others kept a sense of perspective, recognizing that the recovery process was still in its infancy and it would take some time for the resumption of normalcy.

Fast forward a month and little has changed. In fact, news of an outbreak of the new strain of Coronavirus in England had dampened the anticipation toward the vaccine and precautionary measures have been set in place in view of Chinese New Year. Read on to find out what these restrictions are and its implications on the Chinese New Year experience this year!

Auspicious number ‘8’

With the restrictions limiting your household’s daily number of visitors to just 8, and individuals being limited to only 2 house visits per day, planning our visits will be very important this year. Unfortunately, it means foregoing certain house visits, thus affecting the festive spirit as well as the hustle and bustle that comes with it.

This has led to families resorting to online solutions such as Zoom calls. This impersonal arrangement will undoubtedly be a strange experience, especially given that the Chinese tradition of reunion dinner is to celebrate family ties and meet your loved ones. 

The opening of one’s home and the presence of guests will be sorely missed. After all, a home without people is just an empty shell. With all that said, there are positives to take from the restrictions. For instance, more time on our hands (given the lack of house visits) means that we can have deeper and longer conversations with our loved ones. It also provides us an opportunity to develop relationships with relatives that we are not close to.
 
It might be a unique Chinese New Year, but we can most certainly make it the most fruitful one yet!

Improved Business for F&B Establishments

With all the difficulties in hosting Chinese New Year visits, some have resorted to meeting outside for meals. Thus, restaurant business had been booming during this festive season. Some restaurants have resorted to opening additional slots for reunion meals to meet the demand. Contrary to previous years, restaurants now provide the option of Chinese New Year Eve lunches too.

Some fine dining establishments are fully booked and up to 90% of their casual dining outlets located in heartland malls had been fully reserved on CNY Eve. This is a reflection of the booming restaurant business and it can partly be attributed to visiting restrictions.

However, with safe distancing measures and restrictions on group size in place, such restaurants are unable to operate at full capacity. Hence, although there will be an increase in the number of people eating out during the season, the increase in restaurant business is only relative to the recent COVID19 situation and might still fall short of revenue of previous years.

Retailers: Offline to Online

The shift to E-commerce has been well documented over the past year, with many preferring the convenience of online over physically going down to retail outlets. COVID-19 has only served to speed up the process of migrating to E-commerce platforms, especially during the lockdown period.  

Of those hit the hardest are the retailers in Chinatown, whose main period of income comes during this festive season. Some retailers are expecting revenue to fall by 30-50%. In contrast, Shopee Singapore reported a 6-fold increase on their online shopping portal for Chinese New Year goodies.

In fact, it has also led to the closure of several retail outlets. Some establishments had to let go of physical outlets and turn toward developing their online business in hope that business will pick up.

Retailers are also facing the problem of lower supplies, with production being affected by COVID-19 regulations in other countries. To compound their misery, they have to pay higher shipping fees and their orders are sometimes delayed.

Overall, the retail business has been challenging during these periods and are likely to continue. Perhaps channelling some efforts towards e-commerce together with physical store presence might bring about the much-needed festive cheer.

Conclusion

Although this year’s celebrations are drastically different, we can still make the most of it. Whether you are a homeowner, a restaurant owner, or a retailer, there will be things to be grateful for.

Having people over to your house was a pipe dream just half a year ago, while restaurant businesses were dwindling during lockdown and are now picking up. Retailers now have the option of channelling funds into the development of their online business instead.

As they say, every cloud has its silver lining. Here’s wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous Chinese New Year!

Ian Khoo
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