ORBA turns Christmas light-up into hybrid affair after cutting down spend

The Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) is turning this year's Christmas light-up into a hybrid one, putting a twist to the annual tradition. The theme for this year's light-up is titled "Love this Christmas" and allows the public to enjoy the precinct's display of lights and decorations both physically and virtually.

The virtual 360 degree tour of the stretch from Tanglin Mall to Dhoby Ghaut, including Scotts Road, is accessible worldwide, including China. Returning for the 30th year as the main sponsor is Hitachi while Mastercard marks its eighth year as the official card for a precinct-wide Christmas Rewards campaign which runs from 13 November to 24 December. It is handing out SG$30 mall vouchers to the first 100 Mastercard shoppers who spend SG$300 each week at any of the 12 participating malls. Among the list of 12 malls include 313@somerset, Forum The Shopping Mall, Mandarin Gallery, Ngee Ann City/Takashimaya Shopping Centre, Orchard Central, Paragon, Scotts Square and The CentrePoint.

Kojin Nakakita, chairman of Hitachi Asia, said in addition to this year being the 30th anniversary of its sponsorship for the event, it is also Hitachi's 110th anniversary and this annual collaboration has been a cornerstone in its efforts to give back to society. "Despite facing a difficult situation due to COVID-19, we remain very much committed to being a part of this yearly event. In such dire times, we hope to boost the spirits and confidence of the people and continue in our pursuit of powering good for years to come," he said.

Meanwhile, Deborah Heng, country manager, Singapore, Mastercard, said as the world wraps up a challenging year, the festive season is an opportunity to bridge both physical and emotional distances by bringing the Christmas spirit to close family and friends. "Mastercard is honoured to be the official payments partner for Christmas on A Great Street for the eighth consecutive year, and is pleased to offer cardholders with priceless rewards when they shop at their favourite malls this holiday season. This will add a little joy to their celebration, as they share precious moments with their loved ones," she added.

This year's event also sees Mandarin Orchard as the official retailer and is supported by Singapore Tourism Board and its SingapoRediscovers campaign. 

Q's Advertising was involved in the production of the event while TMRW created the campaign creatives.

This year's decorations will feature brightly-lit snowflakes intertwined with mistletoe and hollies in white, gold and blue which will be strung across the sub-precincts of Somerset, Orchard and Tanglin. Christmas ornaments and white and gold baubles will hang from trees and lampposts that line the boulevard. Taking centre stage is a shimmering main arch adorned with a gigantic blue ribbon and festooned with glittering reindeer and hollies, at the Orchard-Paterson Road junction.

03. main arch night
09. zone 3 somerset rd11. orchard cairnhill junction

According to ORBA, this year's Christmas light-up is a reminder that no physical distance should stop anyone from showing love to those they care about. The light-up is also dedicated to frontliners, in recognition of their contributions and sacrifices. ORBA hopes that the light-up, which is part of the SingapoRediscovers campaign and will run from 13 November to 1 January 2021, will lift the spirits of Singaporeans amidst the pandemic. To minimise the risks of crowds gathering to ensure the health and safety of the public, ORBA is not bringing back the Great Christmas Village, which in previous years served as the hub for street food, amusement rides, games and performances.

ORBA chairman Mark Shaw said the light up is an event that many look forward to every year as it brings people together to celebrate the holidays and season of giving. "We believe it is important to lift up spirits as we wrap up a very challenging year, and encourage people to share love and joy with family and friends, as well as their appreciation for our frontline heroes, not just in healthcare but in other industries, all of whom have worked tirelessly to protect us and keep the economy going during the pandemic," he added.

Moreover, ORBA will once again collaborate with the Community Chest to stage the closed-door Light-Up Ceremony, which will be officiated by President Halimah Yacob, at ION Orchard. A livestream is available on Community Chest's Facebook page and YouTube channel for viewers at home.  In the spirit of Christmas, ORBA will continue to partner with Lions of Healthcare and other partners on an initiative to recognise the contributions of frontline workers including healthcare personnel, security guards, delivery staff and teachers, offering them promotions for shopping, dining and services. Visitors can also nominate a frontline hero by sharing an inspiring story of resilience on Christmas on A Great Street's microsite for a chance to win prizes for themselves and their heroes.

Shaw explained that it would like to extend its heartfelt thanks to the heroes for their valiant efforts to keep Singaporeans safe as they go about their daily lives. "We hope they will be able to enjoy their downtime this Christmas by enjoying the lights on Orchard Road with some treats from ORBA members as a gesture of our appreciation," he added.

While Shaw declined to reveal the exact monetary investment for this year's Christmas light-up, he told Marketing in an interview that they had cut back from the regular campaign investment since there will be no Great Christmas Village in this year's event. He added that ORBA also shifted its focus to have the Christmas light-up become a mood lifter for the country and hopefully draw more Singaporeans to Orchard Road.

Without a doubt, the circuit breaker impacted the retail and F&B sectors badly, causing expenditures to dip by more than 50% during that period, according to statistics from Mastercard. However, Shaw said that the sectors have bounced back and the expenditure for the whole of July was better than the second quarter of 2020, signifying that Singaporeans are beginning to rediscover Orchard Road again. ORBA is also currently working on a Black Friday sale in November, with more details to be released at a later date. Shaw foresees that moving forward, retailers will have to adopt a hybrid online to offline business model.

Currently, ORBA is present on digital platforms such as Facebook and WeChat which are used to help retailers reach customers. According to him, merchant promotions are disseminated to consumers via WeChat and its website. 

Last year, the Singapore Tourism Board, Urban Redevelopment Authority and National Parks Board came up with a plan to strengthen Orchard Road’s position as a “must-visit lifestyle destination”. The plan has two main thrusts, which is to make Orchard Road ‘The Lifestyle Destination’ and to "Bring Back the Orchard". While Shaw said that the rejuvenation plan has been put on hold as a result of the pandemic, ORBA is still working on making the shopping street more attractive to consumers, such as having better surface connectivity and street level activity. 

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