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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Flea market economy

Shoppers are spoilt for choice with the number of flea markets - regular and pop-up ones - being set up in various locations
The Straits Times - March 28, 2014
By: Elrica Tanu
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Flea market economy Ms Sharon Ng, 24, and Mr Shaun Foo, 27 (both above), at their stall at the Sentosa Boardwalk Bazaar selling bibs. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Bargain hunters can now look beyond the usual flea-market suspects for good buys.

At least four pop-up bazaars are taking place this weekend alongside two regular ones at Lucky Plaza and Sentosa Boardwalk, which was launched last June.

The Art Mart, the latest pop-up flea market here, will be held today and tomorrow in conjunction with The Arts House's 10th anniversary.

About 20 vendors offering fashion apparel and accessories will set up shop at The Lawn at The Arts House, which re-opened recently. It was closed for about three years due to the renovation at The Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall next door. While The Arts House has leased out the venue to flea market organisers in the past, this is the first time it is organising such an event.

"We wanted to celebrate our 10th anniversary with a bang. With The Lawn finally back, we wanted to do something special outdoors," says Mr William Phuan, director of The Arts House.

The event may become a fixture if the response is good, adds the 42-year-old, who hopes to attract a crowd of about 4,000 over the two days.

Another bazaar taking place this weekend is the Bras Basah.Bugis Arts Flea Market at the newly opened National Design Centre in Middle Road.

Started by the National Heritage Board's Bras Basah.Bugis precinct team in August 2012, it is a monthly event that aims to "enhance the precinct's positioning as Singapore's arts and heritage district", says a spokesman for the National Heritage Board's Bras Basah.Bugis precinct team.

Held in collaboration with flea market operator Public Garden, the latest edition focuses on design, with 50 vendors showcasing the latest collections of local fashion labels and handmade craft products.

Mr Jervais Choo, 37, assistant director of the National Museum of Singapore, who heads the team in charge of the flea market, says the event allows more people to experience the vibrancy of the area.

He adds: "It features local entrepreneurs, artisans, craftsmen, hobbyists and vintage hunters who do not operate in a brick-and-mortar business setting."

Two other bazaars to check out this weekend were launched earlier this month. Goodnight Market and i Light Marina Bay Festival Bazaar are being held at the Marina Bay waterfront promenade as part of the biennial light art festival, i Light Marina Bay.

At Haw Par Villa, a flea market with a vintage theme was held over the last two weekends. It was one of the activities by the Singapore Tourism Board to draw people to the local attraction.

Wares on sale included old typewriters, children's games and artisanal craft products.

"Organisations see flea markets as a means to attract human traffic and reach out to young people. Our customers are usually aged between 18 and 25 years old," says Mr Kent Teo, 29, co-founder and owner of For Flea Sake, the organiser for the Haw Par Villa flea market.

While he used to organise three to four flea markets a month, he now handles nine to 10 each month.

He says more venues are holding such bazaars as they are encouraged by the success of artisanal flea markets such as the monthly Market of Artists and Designers (Maad) at Red Dot Design Museum and the bi-monthly Sunday Artists Market at The Vault bar in Circular Road.

Flea market organisers are approached by the management of the venues to hold flea markets there.

Traditional flea market venues include Zouk, Tanglin Mall and *Scape.

Last June saw the launch of Sentosa Boardwalk Bazaar, held every Saturday at Sentosa Boardwalk, which links VivoCity shopping mall to the island. It is commissioned by Sentosa Leisure Group and organised by TGIF Bazaars, a new player in the scene.

Targeted at families, the lifestyle bazaar offers clothes, handicrafts, accessories and baby products.

Another, called Flea Party, takes place daily in Lucky Plaza. It sells mainly second-hand clothes, with some women's tops going for $1. Also organised by For Flea Sake, the bazaar, which targets youths, was held at *Scape from 2010 to last year.

Flea market organisers are drawn to the versatility that flea markets offer, says Mr Seet Kim Chun, 37, co-founder and owner of TGIF Bazaars.

"Vendors can be curated to reflect the theme that you want," he says.

His bazaar at the boardwalk pulls in 7,000 to 12,000 visitors a day.

Student Jasmine Wong, 19, a regular at flea markets, says she enjoys digging for hidden gems at these bazaars even though it can get "chaotic" at times.

She was checking out Lucky Plaza's flea market with a friend for the first time when Life! spoke to her. After spending half an hour there, she bought three second-hand casual dresses from fashion brands such as Cotton On for $12.

Over at Haw Par Villa's pop-up bazaar on last Saturday, 20-year-old student Vanessa Wee was on the lookout for "cool, unique and interesting stuff".

The old typewriters caught her eye, but she left with only an eraser printed with the Singapore flag as a memento, as she said the typewriters were "not practical".

Mr Teo says his flea market in Lucky Plaza attracts up to 3,000 shoppers on Sundays, which is double the number when the set-up was at *Scape. Vendors also report brisk business, with some clearing 100 to 200 items within a few hours on weekends, which is twice the number of what they would have sold at *Scape.

He believes Singaporeans are unlikely to tire of flea markets, despite what seems to be an increasingly crowded scene.

"People are attracted to good bargains. Just look at how they flock to the Great Singapore Sale year after year. Flea markets also offer things you can't find in a regular shop, so there will always be something new to discover on every visit."

But low prices aside, Mr Goh Keet Meng, 65, owner of Duke Bazaars which operates the *Scape Bazaar every Thursday to Sunday, says operators should curate their vendors to ensure the quality of their flea markets offerings. "This will appeal to their target audience and help them to stay competitive," he adds.

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