Apple is set to open its third store in Singapore, even as the retail and tourism sectors continue to be buffeted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement yesterday, the tech giant confirmed that its third store will open at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) “soon”, although it did not specify an opening date.

The new store will be situated in the dome-like structure sitting on the water off MBS that was occupied by mega nightclub Avalon from 2011 to 2016.

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“Apple Marina Bay Sands is coming soon to the heart of Singapore, celebrating the first Apple store in the world that sits on the water,” an Apple spokesman said. “As with every Apple store around the world, Apple Marina Bay Sands will bring the best of Apple to our customers… We can’t wait to see you soon.”

The announcement comes after The Straits Times reported in March last year that Apple would be opening two more stores here at Jewel Changi Airport and MBS. Apple’s Jewel store opened in July last year. The store at Knightsbridge mall in Orchard Road opened in 2017.

On his visit to the Republic in December, Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook said Singapore “could use a third store” as the Orchard Road one was “pretty full”.

Apple’s chief executive officer Tim Cook said Singapore “could use a third store” as the Orchard Road one was “pretty full”. Photo: Chong Jun Liang/The Straits Times

But few stores in Singapore remain full at the moment, with the retail and tourism sectors both hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Retail sales plunged by more than 50 per cent in May from a year earlier, while only 2,200 tourists came to Singapore in June compared with nearly 1.6 million for the same period last year.

Dr Seshan Ramaswami, associate professor of marketing education at the Singapore Management University, noted that it is “unusual” to see major store openings during crises like the ongoing pandemic.

“For now, the new store will likely not generate excess demand,” he said. “But good locations in premium malls like MBS that attract a very exclusive clientele are not always available, and companies with deep pockets, such as Apple, (could) use the crisis to negotiate a good rental.”

Apple is the most valuable company in the world and became the first American firm to be valued at US$2 trillion (S$2.74 trillion) earlier this month. It shrugged off the effects of the pandemic to post record sales and an 11 per cent year-on-year increase in third-quarter revenue to US$59.7 billion last month.

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Singapore Polytechnic marketing and retail lecturer Amos Tan said the store opening could be part of Apple’s strategy to ramp up advertising when most other companies are struggling and lying low.

“It’s exactly in times like these when there’s very little noise around that savvy players like Apple can come in strong, spend more money and increase their overall presence,” said Mr Tan.

“We call this ‘reminder advertising’ because you are reminding consumers of your brand, and Apple has been very aggressive recently.”

Business undergraduate and iPhone user Leonard Chong, 25, said he did not see a reason to go out of his way to visit the store when it opens, though. “I may pop in to check (the store) out if I happen to be in the area, but there’re many other avenues to get your hands on Apple products in Singapore. For example, I could go to an authorised reseller nearer my home or buy a second-hand device online.”

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.