Speech by Mr Lee Yock Suan, Minister of Information and the Arts, at the Official Launch of Cheers at SMRT Stations on 27 October 2001 at 11.00am at Cheers at Ang Mo Kio MRT Station

27/10/2001

I am happy to join all of you here this morning at the official launch of Cheers at SMRT Stations.

2.     Cheers SMRT is an innovative partnership between an experienced retailer and a major public transport provider. This business partnership will certainly bring convenience and value-added services to Singaporeans. In the current economic situation, it is increasingly difficult to ensure business viability. One has to be very innovative to survive and stay ahead of competition. The direction which Cheers and SMRT are both taking is to capitalise on their own strengths and core capabilities to make their joint venture a successful one.

3.     I am pleased to note that Cheers Holdings is also starting its own franchise scheme. In recent months, we have heard of the challenges facing the small shopkeepers and owners of family-run businesses that have been hit hard by competition, changing customer trends and the recession.

4.     To assist these affected businesses, the Housing Development Board has launched various programmes and schemes under the Retail 21 masterplan. One of the programmes will provide help to HDB retailers to upgrade their operations through the Retail Essentials Assistance Programme (REAP). Another programme is the Franchise 21 Assistance Programme to encourage retailers to join a franchise. There is also another scheme, namely, the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) which allows eligible shop tenants who wish to retire to give up their shop units and receive an ex-gratia payment of $48,000. This will involve about 500 rental shops at selected areas where there is excess retail space and business is weak.

5.     Apart from these, the Government has also announced several schemes to assist the local enterprises, particularly the small and medium-sized companies. The Productivity and Standards Board is providing more financial assistance to help SMEs overcome their current economic difficulties. It has introduced enhancements to the Local Enterprise Finance Scheme and the Local Enterprise Technical Assistance Scheme to help local enterprises restructure and improve their financing. Among these are a reduction of interest rates for the LEFS and the Loan Insurance Scheme to help the SMEs gain greater access to financing. It is opportune that Cheers Franchise Scheme is now open for application as it gives HDB shop owners who are keen to reinvigorate their businesses a viable option. Cheers Convenience Store concept is a young but progressive retail chain, already making an impression in Singapore’s convenience store industry. With the support of its parent NTUC FairPrice, which is Singapore’s leading supermarket retailer, Cheers offers retail experience and business acumen that will help ensure success for its franchise scheme. Franchisees can benefit from the professional guidance which will shorten their learning curves in starting a business of their own. Aspiring Singaporeans can take this chance to be part of a franchise with a reputable chain. Existing shop owners or tenants can also consider converting their existing stores to a Cheers Franchise store, provided that they meet Cheers’ selection criteria.

6.     I congratulate Cheers Holdings and SMRT Investments on the launch of Cheers at SMRT Stations today and wish potential franchisees all the best in their new business venture with Cheers.

MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, COMMUNICATIONS AND THE ARTS
27 October 2001

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