Businesses in Johor suffer without S'porean tourists, Hiap Joo bakery sales drop by 50%

Hope things will get better with the reopening of borders.

Zhangxin Zheng | July 18, 2020, 02:33 PM

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Johor Bahru was one of Singaporeans' favourite spots for a short weekend getaway.

Since the Malaysia-Singapore border closed, businesses in JB have suffered quite a fair bit from the lack of Singaporean shoppers.

Johor Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad recently said that the state government's revenue has dropped by 20 per cent, partly due to the drop in Singaporean visitors, Free Malaysia Today reported.

He added that the impact of the loss of Singaporean visitors is greater for Johor as compared to other parts of the country.

When Singapore faces economic challenges, Johor will be twice as affected as compared to other states.

Businesses in JB affected by border closure

The most affected businesses include food and beverage (F&B) outlets, hairdressing shops, and car wash service providers, according to an 8world News video.

One notable example is the popular bakery shop Hiap Joo, one of Singaporeans' favourite haunts in JB that is famous for its banana cakes.

A spokesperson of popular bakery shop Hiap Joo, Lim Toh Shin, said in the video that 30 to 50 per cent of its sales comes from Singaporean visitors.

Since the start of the lockdown in Malaysia, sales have dropped by 50 per cent but the business is still sustained by domestic demands.

Lim said that it still earns enough to get by and to pay the workers their salaries.

Without Singaporeans, the number of shoppers has also dropped significantly in shopping malls, such as the Paradigm Mall and the Paragon Market Place.

A spokesperson of Paradigm Mall said: "Obviously, without the Singaporeans, the numbers are badly affected."

Turning to domestic market and online marketing

However, mall operators are turning to the domestic market during this period by providing drive-through pick up services for Malaysian shoppers to collect their purchases from the mall without stepping into the mall.

This service has been well received by local shoppers especially parents who need to do their grocery and take care of their children.

Several retailers have also gone online to sell their products and even seek other opportunities during this period.

For example, a motorcycle repair and servicing shop owner, Lin Zhong Wu, has turned to selling disinfectants via live-streaming to stay afloat.

They also worked on their websites during this period.

"Rather than waiting to die, we try to go online. In the past, we were too busy and didn't spend much time on online marketing," Lin said in the 8world News interview.

While the economic outlook for Johor remains a concern as Singapore's economy contracts, businesses are still looking forward to tourists from Singapore as the borders reopen on August 10.

In the longer term, infrastructural development such as the JB-Singapore Rapid Transit System and low labour costs will also help keep JB competitive, a representative from the JB Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Youth Committee said.

About 10.2 million visitors arrived in Malaysia from Singapore last year.

Top photo from Hiap Joo Bakery (Since 1919)/Facebook