Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Flea markets create buzz in estates

Residents get to bond and earn some money Singapore
By Tay Suan Chiang, The Straits Times, 15 May 2012

A NEIGHBOURHOOD park in West Coast Garden used to be quiet, but since last November it has drawn more residents, thanks to a monthly flea market held there.

'Not many residents visited the park and I wanted to have an activity that would get residents out of their homes,' said Ms Elizabeth Lai, chairman of the West Coast Garden Neighbourhood Committee.

Ms Lai, a businesswoman in her 50s, came up with the idea of the flea market, which is held on the first Sunday of the month.

West Coast residents pay $5 for a space while others pay $20. When The Straits Times dropped by last month, it found about 10 stalls selling used items such as clothes, shoes and toys.

Weekend flea markets have also created a buzz in other neighbourhoods such as Nee Soon South, Pek Kio, Marine Parade and Ang Mo Kio. Started mainly by resident committee groups or community clubs, they are held once a month. Priority is given to area residents to set up stalls.

Bookings - with fees usually between $10 and $15 - often have to be made a month beforehand.

A flea market differs from a pasar malam, or night market, which is usually commercially driven. Flea markets are also normally held in the day, when residents can sell their old stuff and make a bit of money at the same time.

Some flea markets go as far back as 10 years ago, such as the one held each Sunday at Tampines Round Market and Food Centre in Tampines Street 11. It has about 80 stalls.

'I started it during the economic recession in 2002 to help residents earn some extra pocket money and to bring some buzz to the market. Some residents had lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts,' said Tampines GRC Member of Parliament Irene Ng.

She plans to start another weekly flea market with an arts and crafts theme on Saturdays. Slated to start at the end of the year, it will have residents selling items ranging from pottery to handmade quilts and accessories.

Needy residents do not have to pay for the stalls. Mr Mohd Omar, 58, is among the beneficiaries. He has been selling books, football jerseys and scarfs at the Tampines flea market for three years now, and can make about $80 each time.

Other sellers have to pay $10 but that has not deterred Ms Sally Lau, 47, who has been travelling to Tampines from Jurong to hawk lingerie and children's underwear since 2006.

She can make more than $100 each time and has regular clients.

Mr Soh Peck Kiat, 60, chairman of the merchant association in Tampines Street 11 which manages the flea market, said: 'I see repeat sellers and there is also a waiting list to set up stall here.'

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah started a flea market - held on the last Sunday of each month - in her ward about four years ago.

'It provides our residents an opportunity to try their hand at doing business,' she noted.

Other organisers use the occasion to inculcate a caring spirit.

In March, Moulmein-Kallang GRC and Whampoa SMC held a flea market at Albert Mall. Said Ms Denise Phua, an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC: 'We wanted to create a more caring township by donating proceeds to selected charities in our town to help the disadvantaged.'

But the greatest payoff comes from the provision of a platform for residents to mix and mingle.

For housewife Rachel Lee, 45, going to the Tampines flea market is not only about snagging a good deal but also about bonding with neighbours. 'I've made friends after going to the flea market as we see one another every Sunday.'

Mr S. Iswaran, an MP for West Coast GRC, visited the flea market at West Coast Garden last month. 'Neighbourhood flea markets are a great idea when residents initiate and participate in them,' said Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Trade and Industry and Home Affairs.

With newer condominiums coming up in his ward, he added that these events will be a good way for new residents to build ties in the community.

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