However, most businesses remain cautiously optimistic about the future.

The pandemic has brought grim news for most businesses in Singapore. But is it all doom and gloom for them or is there light at the end of the tunnel?

A survey by American Express, a global services company, gives us a peep into the sentiments of Singaporean business owners.  Here’s what they found out:

Almost six in 10 (59%) Singapore business leaders describe their companies as surviving, with new waves of COVID-19 and corresponding movement restrictions being their main challenge in 2021.

In fact, 41% had considered closing their businesses from January to August 2021 due to pandemic volatility.

This is according to the second Shop Small Business Recovery Research for Singapore conducted with 300 local business leaders from July to August 2021. 

A cautious optimism in the air

However, the survey revealed, most businesses remain cautiously optimistic about the future. Almost seven in 10 (67%) expect 2021 annual sales to increase compared to pre-pandemic annual sales in 2019— an improvement from 53% in 2020. The top reasons for their optimism in 2021 are the increase in revenue from expanding their businesses online (46%), support from new customers (44%), and continued support from regular customers (40%). 

“While local businesses are more optimistic after almost two years since the pandemic started, its volatility weighs heavily on business leaders’ minds, including ours,” said Ho Yat-Wai, Country Manager, American Express Singapore. “The spike in cases and new restrictions announced on 24 September are examples of the fluidity of the situation and difficulty in planning.

“Businesses need our help—especially now in these volatile times. With Shop Small, American Express is providing extra support for businesses to feel they can thrive—and not just survive.  We are mindful of shoppers’ safety, so for those who are planning to go out, we encourage you to support our businesses and follow safe distancing measures to keep you and your family safe.”

The big gains of Shop Small

According to a media statement by American Express, this is the second year it is bringing Shop Small to Singapore—after a successful inaugural year where its Card Members made over 80,000 purchases at about 2,000 local businesses during the one-month long campaign.

This year, American Express will expand its offer to over 3,000 businesses, the company said. Card Members will get S$3 back for every S$10 spent at participating businesses, up to five times, from 5 October to 5 November 20211. Shop Small complements other promotions available throughout the year.

Customers, not government, is top supporter of business

This year, businesses cited their regular customers and new customers (63%) as their biggest supporters, followed by the government (16%). In 2020, the top supporter cited was the government (30%). As government support tapers off as Singapore moves into the new normal, businesses need support from customers even more.

Singapore businesses optimistic for the new normal  

According to the survey findings, 71% of respondents shared they are optimistic they can thrive in the new normal—with 76% having made adjustments to sustain their business in the next 12 months. 

The top two changes businesses plan to make in the new normal are to focus more on e-commerce and communicate more with customers via social media.  

Uncertainty from pandemic changes long-term business strategy and planning 

Unsurprisingly, only four in 10 (45%) business leaders now have a clear long-term strategy compared to eight in 10 (84%) before the pandemic. Among those who do not currently have a business plan, 23% cite the uncertainty from the pandemic as a key reason. Another 25% changed their business strategy to become more agile to better respond to changes, rather than focusing on long-term planning. 

ASTONS Founder and CEO Aston Soon said, “Since the start of pandemic, we expected it to linger for three years. So, we foresee an uncertain journey, full of challenges ahead. To ensure we can continue to sustain growth, we need to remain innovative and nimble to tackle challenges, while taking calculated risks with a robust long-term plan and continued investments for the business.” ASTONS opened a new outlet at Joo Chiat Road in July 2021.

ASTONS, Ka-Soh Restaurants and The Closet Lover are participating businesses in the 2021 Shop Small offer, American Express said in their media statement.