SINGAPORE - Shoppers are not just stocking up on bak kwa and pineapple tarts, they are buying video game consoles and even antigen rapid test (ART) kits ahead of Chinese New Year on Feb 1.
The demand for popular items including hotpot sets, which several e-commerce platforms like Lazada, Shopee and Amazon said is higher than last year's, also comes off the back of prevailing tightened restrictions.
"There was a notable increase in purchases for ART self-test kits, suggesting that while Singaporeans are looking forward to visitations, they are doing so responsibly and accustomed to a Covid-19 endemic lifestyle," said Lazada chief executive officer, Mr Loh Wee Lee.
The multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic had announced on Friday (Jan 21) that the maximum number of visitors to a household will remain capped at five, a limit set since November last year.
It also said that existing safe management measures, including limiting group sizes for dining at restaurants to five individuals, will continue to be enforced over the Chinese New Year period.
The Straits Times contacted several e-commerce platforms which said that the restrictions on house visits have meant that certain items, such as self-test kits, are in higher demand.
On Friday, the task force encouraged family members to take a self-administered ART before visiting relatives who are seniors.
Celebrations will be watered down for the second year running with the annual Chinese New Year bazaar at Chinatown cancelled.
The authorities said additional safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers will be deployed at Chinatown hot spots to curb crowding.
With the curbs, people have taken their shopping online.
"Compared to last year, we have seen a more than 40 % increase in our Lunar New Year buyers," said Mr Loh, who added that this year's sales were led by strong demand for groceries, beauty items and clothes.
Shopee said that since the first week of January, sales across their food and beverage (F&B), home and living, and home appliance categories more than doubled in the lead-up to Chinese New Year.
Certain product categories such as household cleaning tools and Chinese New Year goodies stood out for Lazada, Shopee and Amazon.
During Lazada's Chinese New Year sale from Jan 8 to 16, the most popular products included food items like bird's nest and abalone, handheld and robot vacuum cleaners, as well as Chinese New Year fashion.
Video game consoles also saw a spike in sales.
Amazon's top product categories during their sale period included household cleaning tools and appliances, and laundry products, as shoppers prepared for spring cleaning.
Beer was also a popular category.
Shopee said it saw a greater volume of in-app searches on Chinese New Year-related keywords from as early as December last year, with high demand for items like home decorations, hotpot ingredients and goodies such as pineapple tarts and bak kwa.
This year, the e-commerce platform partnered with the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng constituency office to introduce the Digital Chinatown e-bazaar, where brick and mortar vendors listed items.
"Digital Chinatown showcases several home-grown merchants without a prior digital presence, such as Yue Hwa Chinese Products, a longstanding department store that brings authentic Chinese products and delicacies to customers on Shopee," said a spokesman for the platform.
Yue Hwa's online store on the platform lists products such as peanut and soya bean dipping sauces, and pre-packed sliced rice cakes and noodles for hotpots.
Shoppers like Ms Annabel Lim, 33, are avoiding the crowds altogether, and taking their buying frenzy online.
"I used to go to Takashimaya department store to try out all the Chinese New Year goodies before buying them, but now I just rely on word of mouth and Instagram reviews, and buy directly from home-based businesses," said Ms Lim, a senior manager in communications.
She added that she also stocked up on drinks and frozen food off Lazada-owned online marketplace RedMart.
However, others like account manager Hannah Goh, 28, prefer to pick up their groceries from the wet market.
Ms Goh said: "Especially for hosting hotpot dinners at home, freshness, good quality and being able to buy seasonal items are more important... you can't ever be sure of what you'll get when you order produce and raw meats off a site."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.