Last Updated on 2023-05-16 , 2:30 pm
National Development Minister Mr Desmond Lee Ti-Seng stated on 14 May 2023 that the lease for the Bartley Ridge wet market in Serangoon, like other rental properties, will be returned to the Housing and Development Board (HDB) when it expires in October 2024.
The wet market, situated in the Bradley Ridge area of Serangoon, is the only one in the vicinity operated by a private entity.
The HDB is granting a one-year temporary lease to the existing private operator to ensure a smooth transition and minimise disruption to residents’ grocery shopping.
During this period, HDB will require the operator to maintain their current rental rates and retain the existing vendors at the Bartley Ridge wet market to minimise the negative impact on their livelihoods.
Drop in Popularity and Demand for Wet Markets in Singapore
The Bradley Ridge wet market has experienced a decline in popularity due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past few years, some vendors have been forced to close their businesses, leading to an increasing number of vacant stalls.
This trend aligns with the findings of a 2018 National Environment Agency (NEA) survey, which revealed that 39% of Singaporeans had yet to visit a wet market in at least a year.
While wet markets are recognised for offering fresher and often more affordable groceries compared to larger supermarkets, many Singaporeans, particularly the younger generation, still prefer to shop at supermarkets such as NTUC FairPrice and Giant.
The decline in foot traffic and business activity is evident in the Bartley Ridge wet market, where approximately half the stalls are vacant.
Most vendors left because they didn’t profit enough to sustain the high rental costs.
As of 13 May 2023, only ten vendors continue to operate in the wet market, with most only opening their stalls on Saturdays from 10 am.
Changing Consumer Habits and Competition from Supermarkets Tough for Wet Market
According to Mr Li Xiuqing, a 74-year-old vendor selling dry goods in the Bartley Ridge wet market, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted people’s lifestyles and consumption habits.
As a result, he observed that apart from the Bartley Ridge wet market, foot traffic in most wet markets has decreased by approximately 30% to 40%.
Reports indicate that COVID-19 has influenced consumers to reduce their shopping frequency, with many opting for online shopping during the pandemic’s peak.
For instance, fish sales at wet markets declined by 10% to 15% in August 2021 due to COVID-19 cases linked to the Jurong Fishery Port cluster.
Similarly, a fishmonger in Tekka Market experienced a 70% drop in sales, while a vegetable vendor in the Ang Mo Kio Blk 409 wet market witnessed a 50% decrease in sales in 2018.
These changes in consumer behaviour persisted even in 2021, resulting in reduced footfall in physical markets and a significant surge in e-commerce consumption from stores such as RedMart.
Moreover, there is still a lingering stigma associated with wet markets, as some Singaporeans continue to avoid them due to misconceptions about their hygiene, particularly in light of previous COVID-19 cases.
Furthermore, many young people perceive wet markets as less convenient to locate than supermarkets in shopping malls, despite 83 wet markets existing in Singapore.
Mr Li echoes this sentiment, citing competition from supermarkets like NTUC FairPrice in the NEX shopping mall nearby and Giant from the nearby HDB block to have also affected the business of the wet market.
Vendors Reluctant to Move Due to Higher Rents Elsewhere and Existing Customer Bases
Despite vendors’ challenges, most of them express their desire to continue operating in the Bartley Ridge wet market.
Mr Zhuo Tiansheng, a 58-year-old vegetable vendor, is concerned about finding a new location once their lease expires.
He stated that rent outside the Bartley Ridge area is expensive and beyond his means.
Furthermore, he highlights that the profits from the wet market are crucial for supporting his family, making the prospect of relocating even more daunting.
Ms Hong Lifang, a 51-year-old chicken vendor, shares similar worries.
She anticipates relocating to involve significant costs likely amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.
Like many other vendors in Bartley Ridge wet market, she has experienced a consistent decline in sales over the past few years, making it difficult to afford the high relocation expenses.
Furthermore, Ms Hong emphasises that she has built a solid customer base at Bartley Ridge and forged personal connections with loyal customers.
This deepens her reluctance to part ways with them.
A nearby resident, Ms Chen, echoes the sentiments of the vendors.
She explains that although prices at the wet market may not be lower than those at supermarkets, she values the freshness and longer shelf life of the vegetables available there.
Additionally, at the wet market, she can customise the quantity of Yong Tau Foo and the number of vegetables she purchases based on her needs.
She states that commercial supermarkets rarely offer this level of personalised service and flexibility.
As such, like the vendors, she hopes the wet market will continue to operate due to the affinity and convenience it provides.
Plans for the Future of Bartley Ridge Wet Market Vendors
Mr Seah Kian Peng, the Marine Parade GRC Councilor responsible for grassroots affairs, acknowledges the significant tenure of many vendors in the wet market and the strong customer bases they have built over the years.
He is well aware of the concerns raised by the vendors and the desire of nearby residents to see the wet market and its vendors continue their operations.
Recognising the potential negative impact the existing vendors will suffer from the impending relocation, Mr Seah has expressed his concerns about the market’s future.
In response to these concerns, Mr Lee has assured that plans for the wet market’s future are already in motion.
The HDB will invite bids for a standard three-year lease, taking over control of the market from its current private operator.
For the past 15 years, the wet market has been operated by E Land Properties, a company owned by the president of Sheng Siong Group.
The bids will be evaluated using the Price-Quality Method (PQM) to ensure that the rents offered are reasonable and affordable for the current vendors at Bartley Ridge wet market.
They will also select operators who will best serve the residents and bring renewed vitality to the area.
Additionally, he states that the HDB is open to exploring alternative uses for the space while considering the changing needs of the residents.
This may involve repurposing redundant or vacant areas within the market.
The HDB also stated that it would actively engage with various stakeholders, including grassroots leaders, to ensure their involvement in the decision-making process.
Your parents are wrong: MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) is good for you (sort of). Here’s the truth:
- Study Shows S’pore Residents Are Eating More Calories, From 2,360Kcal to 2,410Kcal
- Everything About the Additional S$1.1 Billion Support Package & What You’d Receive
- Bukit Panjang Has Just Joined the Million-Dollar HDB Resale Club
- 4 Foreigners Charged for Working as Food Delivery Riders Illegally
- Everything About the Harvest Moon in Singapore on 29 Sept, The Last Supermoon in 2023