Business shrinks when rain hits East Coast Park

Takings can drop by as much as 50%, even during school holidays
Tham Yuen-C Straits Times 7 Nov 11;

IN AN annual stroke of irony, takings dry up somewhat for the businesses along the East Coast Parkway when the year-end rains roll in.

Already, October was wetter than usual, and the National Environment Agency has warned of more rain, with possible flash floods, to come.

A weak La Nina weather system, which lowers sea temperatures in the Pacific and induces more clouds to form, is to blame.

When the rain hits, the clutch of bicycle and skate-rental shops, alfresco dining outlets and other merchants along the beach suffer a drop in takings, some by as much as half, despite the year end being the school holidays.

East Coast Prawning, which rents out fishing rods for reeling in prawns and fish, has invested in 20 umbrella stands and $400 in disposable raincoats to keep its customers dry.

Building regulations have prevented the owners from constructing a permanent shelter over the pond, so takings fall by about a third on wet days.

Owner Michael Goh, 52, said he hopes the umbrellas and raincoats will persuade more of his customers to stick around when the heavens open up.

'Usually, half of them go when it rains,' he said.

At Mrs Kelly Lim's pushcart stall selling beach balls, kites and other toys, earnings can fall by 40 per cent.

The 45-year-old, who has run the stall for six years, said she closes her shop only when the rains are torrential.

'It's the school holiday season, so we really have to try and make as much as we can,' she said in Mandarin.

To keep afloat, she has added wet-weather merchandise - umbrellas and raincoats - to her offerings.

'It doesn't help much, but at least it can cover for some lost business. We can only pray for better weather,' she said.

Yesterday brought just that.

The skies were overcast but the rain stayed away, so beach-goers, cyclists, skaters and stall-holders were out in full force.

Bicycle rental shops did brisk business.

Mr Ivan Lim, 24, the manager at Kit Runners, said: 'How badly business is affected depends on how long the rain lasts. If it's only an hour or two, we can still cover our costs.'

The situation is the same for Coastal Recreation Bicycle Rental, said manager Dave Lim, 34.

The company has been trying to encourage people to ride on weekdays by dangling discounts.

'It does help a little during the school holidays, but no matter how much we increase sales during the weekdays, it's no use if it rains on the weekends and public holidays,' he said.

Kit Runners' Mr Lim said the company has branched out into renting out bicycles for mass-cycling events to make up for the slump in business.

He said: 'It's Mother Nature. There's not much we can do about it. We just hope it doesn't rain for very long.'

To prepare for wet weather, The Beach Hut restaurant has moved some of its outdoor tables to the sheltered portion of its premises.

Even then, half the tables cannot be used when strong winds blow the rain into the restaurant, said manager Anna Dizon, 28.

Although the situation has not been too bad so far, business can still fall by a third during the rainy months.

Ms Dizon sees a silver lining in those rain clouds though.

She quipped: 'When people run for shelter, we do get some crowds and the whole indoor part becomes full. We do get some business there!'