Friday, April 18, 2008

Revving up for the Formula 1 Party

But some nightspots are putting the brakes on sales expectations

IT IS all systems go for Singapore's inaugural Formula 1 (F1) race, but most major clubs and bar operators are cautious in forecasting revenue growth.

Some say that sales will grow by around 20 to 30 per cent. Others remain uncertain how their businesses will be affected by the roadblocks that will be put up during the race.

While only a select group of companies will eventually get to use the sport's jealously-guarded F1 brand name, many others are going ahead with events loosely based around a "Grand Prix" theme.

The Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix will be held in September and is the first night race in the sport's history at this level.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has estimated that the three-day event from Sept 26 to 28 will bring in some $100 million.

"Whether you use the term F1 or Grand Prix, it's not going to make a difference because everyone would assume it's related to the race," said Mr David Chin, one of the partners of Thumper, the club at Goodwood Park Hotel. The club expects about a 30-per-cent increase in sales from grand prix parties.

When contacted, Mr Arthur Loke, of Arthur Loke and Partners, who handles trademark matters for F1 here, declined to comment.

Among those who can use the trademark is GH Mumm, the official champagne for the race. It recently kicked off its promotional campaign with a party that saw more than 800 people packed into Zouk's Velvet Underground club.

Nightlife industry players told Today that they expect sales to grow between a cautious 20 per cent and an optimistic 60 per cent.

"We believe that there will certainly be a jump in business of at least 30 per cent," said IndoChine's group marketing manager Clementine Rogers.

Indochine is also working with the STB and Singapore GP to find a solution to the road closures near its Empress Place outlet that could affect its parties on race weekend.

Another bar already being affected by the prospect of roadblocks is Durty Nelly's at Marina Square, which is right in the heart of the street circuit.

"We hope to sell parties to corporate clients. We've had a few enquiries but we can't firm up anything yet because we can't tell them how affected we will be at this moment," said Ms Iris Sim, the Irish bar's marketing and events officer.

Zouk's marketing manager Tracy Phillips said the club is expecting an increase of 20 to 50 per cent, judging by the parties the club held in Kuala Lumpur.

Similarly cautious is Mr Andrew Ing, chief operating officer of St James Power Station, who put the clubbing complex's expectations at 20 per cent.

"Everyone is being careful to keep expectations at a safe level, it takes time for things to grow. If things don't live up to expectations people would call it a write off and I think that's unfair," he said.

Crucial to this expected "windfall" will be the number of additional tourists heading to Singapore for the race.

"It depends on how many additional tourists we could bring in because every weekend it's pretty much the same when it comes to sales at clubs," said Mr Bernard Lim, executive vice-president of LifeBrandz, which operates Ministry of Sound. He is expecting a 40 to 60-per-cent sales increase.

The STB expects "a good proportion" of the 90,000 spectators to be from overseas, said its director of communications Rostam Umar.

Some, like Mr Ing, believe that the local population is enough to bring in revenue for all the operators. But Mr Lim of the Ministry of Sound had his doubts.

"Everybody in town will be doing some F1 related party. The market will be saturated and the people with the best and most attractive content will win," he said.

Asif Ansar for Today Newspaper

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