May 22, 2023
SINGAPORE – Ms Aliah Maisarah Zainal’s mother used to sleep at 10pm, but now dozes off only at midnight because of the heat, even with the fan and air-conditioner on.
The heat has also caused her family to be easily irritable, said Ms Aliah, 20, who was with her parents and sister at Gain City Megastore in Sungei Kadut last Wednesday, spending almost $5,000 on four new air-conditioners.
The unpleasant weather has led to spikes in sales of products that help keep temperatures down, with FairPrice reporting a fivefold increase in the sale of air-cons over the past month.
On May 13, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said temperatures had risen to 37 deg C in Ang Mo Kio.
It tied the all-time mark for the highest daily maximum temperature in Singapore, previously recorded in Tengah on April 17, 1983.
Despite the recent rainfall, NEA said daily maximum temperatures could still range between 33 deg C and 35 deg C.
Ms Aliah said her family was replacing three old air-cons because of mould. Her father also wanted to install an air-con in the living room because of the heat.
She added: “We used to turn the air-con on from 7pm till the next morning, but we’ve now started using it at noon because it’s so hot. In this weather, we get easily irritated at little things that normally don’t anger us, like leaving the door open after entering a room.”
This past week, The Sunday Times spoke to people across Singapore on how they were beating the heat.
Marketing manager Mike Ng, 38, said: “It’s been so hot I even considered giving my three children cold noodles.”
He gives his four-year-old isotonic drinks for hydration and said they have been sold out at most stores.
He added that he is glad his office is flexible with the dress code. “I’m wearing shorts to work for the first time. But the commute on the train is much harder with the heat.”
When asked if there had been any surge in taxi bookings during the past few weeks in the light of the heat, ComfortDelGro said it saw a week-on-week increase in bookings from the last week of April to the second week of May.
The company declined to reveal more information, citing confidentiality reasons.
DFI Retail Group, which operates Cold Storage, Giant and 7-Eleven stores, said sales of cooling products at 7-Eleven increased because of the heat. These included chilled drinks, ice-cream, Slurpees, chilled ready-to-eat sandwiches and desserts.
Shopee said there have been more searches for sunglasses and hats that provide protection from the sun and ultraviolet rays, and home appliances such as air coolers, cooling fans and portable air-cons.
A spokesman for the e-commerce company said: “Suncare sales have also increased 30 to 40 per cent in the last two months. Shopee is working closely with our sellers to ensure stable supply and assortment of these items to our consumers.”
For Mrs Stella Francisca Gan, 35, owner of minimart Clanciemart in Toa Payoh, it normally takes a week to clear out stocks of ice cream and monk fruit, also known as luo han guo.
Last week, it took her only two days, and she has seen the minimart’s sales of ice cream, herbs and Panadol double since May 12.
Mrs Gan said that in the past week, her minimart had also run out of cold drinks and herbs such as white fungus and chrysanthemum. She said customers often use herbs to make tea or medicine, believing they have cooling properties. She added: “My customers have all complained the weather is too hot.”
Other businesses also reported busy cash registers.
FairPrice said that it has seen an increase in sales of portable air-cons, fans, sunscreen, face mist and chilled beverages in the past month.
A spokesman for the supermarket chain said: “In particular, sales of air-conditioners and portable air-conditioners at our FairPrice Xtra hypermarkets have seen a fivefold increase, while portable fans saw an uplift of more than 50 per cent month on month.”
He added that FairPrice sold 50 per cent more sunscreen and 10 per cent more chilled juices and drinks over the same period.
Ms Candy Cao, marketing director of Gain City, reported a 20 per cent growth in the sales volume of electric fans and air-cons in the second week of May, compared with the previous week, and an increase in air-con repair and maintenance requests.
Mr Jonathan Tan, managing director of Prism+, said orders have gone up 100 per cent for smart air-cons, and 50 per cent for smart ceiling fans in the past month.
He said direct purchases also doubled during this period, with many consumers choosing immediate installations.
He added: “We have seen a higher sense of urgency from consumers due to rising temperatures.”
Some countries in Asia have been more severely affected by the heatwave, with India, Thailand and Myanmar experiencing temperatures of up to 45 deg C.
The United Nations World Meteorological Organisation has predicted that the next five years will be the warmest period ever recorded globally.
While supermarkets and air-con retailers have been raking in the sales, some other businesses have not been as lucky.
Madam Leong Kam Mooi, 64, a hawker at Eva’s Pancake in Toa Payoh, said sales decreased by 20 per cent in the past week, and the stall has reduced supplies to cut food wastage. She added: “No one wants to go out, so fewer people come to buy from us.”
Madam May Chan, 55, a manager at a construction firm, can relate to that. She was at Gain City last Wednesday, planning to buy a new air-con for the lower level of her flat.
She said: “My husband, son, and I used to have family time downstairs. But now, because it’s so hot, no one wants to leave their rooms.
“Also, my colleagues don’t want to work from home, so they go to the office for the air-con.”