Setting up a Retail Outlet in Singapore

Retail outlets are shops or stores where business owners sell merchandise directly to consumers. According to the latest retail sales index released by the Singapore Department of Statistics, Singapore’s retail sales excluding automobiles increased 0.3% year-on-year in December 2016.

According to EnterpriseOne, Singapore’s retail sector comprised of 20,300 retailers, 115,500 workers and grossed S$40.7 billion in 2008, the year of the Great Recession.This article provides information on how to setup a retail outlet in Singapore. Kindly note that the information provided here is for general guidance only and is not meant to replace professional advice.

Retail Outlets – Key Facts and Requirements

  • Business Incorporation: Before you can begin operations, your retail outlet must first be registered with the Singapore Companies Registrar, ACRA. As the easiest place to do business in the world, Singapore company registration is a quick and easy process which involves just two procedures that can be completed online within 24 hours. That being said, it is best however, if your retail outlet offers unique products and services that are not currently available in Singapore’s colorful retail market.
  • However, if you wish to relocate to Singapore to manage your business and see it through its nascent period, you will be required to apply for the Singapore Entrepreneur Visa called EntrePass first.
  • Approval for Premises: You must ensure that your intended business premise is an approved location for retail business. If you wish to have your retail outlet in a conservation building or private property, approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore (URA) is required for making additions or alterations to the premises. Additionally, a Fire Safety Certificate from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) must be obtained to verify that your retail outlet meets all fire safety requirements. Alternatively, if your outlet will be located in a shopping mall, the landlord may expedite the necessary approvals for you.

Licenses for Setting Up a Retail Outlet in Singapore

Depending on the nature of the merchandise or products offered by your retail outlet, you may have to to apply for the relevant licenses. If your outlet offers products which can affect human health and safety, relevant licenses may be required.

Licenses for various types of outlets

In this guide, we will touch on three popular retail types in Singapore namely supermarkets, pharmacies and telecommunications stores.

Getting a Supermarket licence in Singapore

If you wish to run a supermarket which sells and prepares raw and/or cooked foods, you are required to apply for a Supermarket Licence, as mandated by the Environmental Public Health Act. The license ensures that potential business owners adhere to the cleanliness and food safety guidelines and prevent food-borne diseases. The estimated processing time for an online application of this licence is five working days if the following criteria is met:
  • The Applicant is either an:
    • Individual: Singaporean or Permanent Resident or
    • Company: that is registered with Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)
  • A clear and scaled plan (in metric format) of the premises showing the layout, preparation area, toilets, stores. The design of your supermarket must be in compliance with the Code of Practice of Environmental Health.
  • If you are self-employed, kindly ensure that your Medisave contributions are paid up before applying for a licence.
  • If you wish to sell tobacco products, you must apply for a Tobacco Retail Licence from the Tobacco Regulation Branch of the Health Products Regulation Group. This licence is issued with a 1-year validity and costs S$400 per application.

Getting a Pharmacy licence in Singapore

A Certificate Of Registration of a Pharmacy from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) is necessary for you to operate a pharmacy that retails medicinal products.

Applying for a Certificate of Registration of a Pharmacy
  • As first time applicants of the Certificate of Registration of a Pharmacy, a company director may nominate up to two employees to be official company administrators via the Client Registration and Identification Service website, cris@hsa. To access the system a SingPass account is required.
  • The following information must be submitted with the application:
    • The store’s details and business registration number, layout plan for the pharmacy specifying the dispensing and general sales areas,
    • The applicant’s particulars,
    • The pharmacy outlet’s operating hours and expected opening date,
    • Details of all sites where the medicinal products are stored; and
    • The pharmacist-in-charge’s particulars. (S)he must be registered with the Singapore Pharmacy Council and hold a ‘Form A Poisons License’ and ‘Form C Poisons License’ to sell medicinal products.
  • A  pre-approval audit of the pharmacy will be conducted by pharmacy auditors from HSA before the Certificate could be issued.
  • An application fee of S$500 must be paid in order to obtain the Certificate.
  • Once approved, the certificate is valid for one year.

Getting a licence to open a Telecomms Store in Singapore

Retailers intending to sell, offer or possess for sale any telecommunication equipment must obtain a Telecommunications Dealer’s Licence.

Applying for a Telecommunications Dealer’s (Class) Licence
  • The registration for Dealer’s Class Licence is entity-based. However, you are required to provide Infocommunications Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) with the address and telephone number for each premises that you set up to sell the approved telecommunications equipment set out in the First Schedule of the Regulations.
  • An applicant must be one of these:
    • a business registered under the Business Registration Act (Cap 32) or
    • a company registered or incorporated in Singapore under the Companies Act (Cap 50) or
    • a Limited Liability Partnership (“LLP”) registered under the Limited Liability Partnerships Act.
  • The application fee is S$50 and takes two working days to be processed.

Talk to the experts in Singapore businesses

Hawksford helps entrepreneurs and international businesses set up in Singapore.

Find out more

Applying for a Telecommunication Dealer’s (Individual) Licence

  • The Dealer’s Individual Licence is premises- or outlet-based. This means that every premise selling approved telecommunications equipment requires its own licence
    An applicant must be one of these:
    •  a business registered under the Business Registration Act (Cap 32) or
    •  a company registered or incorporated in Singapore under the Companies Act (Cap 50) or
    •  an Limited Liability Partnership (“LLP”) registered under the Limited Liability Partnerships Act.
  •  The application fee for a Dealer’s Individual Licence is $250 per outlet and is valid for five years.

Licences/Requirements To Retail Certain Goods
Cosmetics and liquor retail are two very popular businesses in Singapore. As they can affect human safety and health, the sale of related items require licences as well.

Getting a licence for Liquor sales in Singapore

  • Any sale or offer for sale of intoxicating liquor will require a liquor licence from the Liquors Licensing Board.
  • Applicants are required to first register the company with ACRA. For societies registered with the Registry of Societies (ROS), the applicant must be a committee member at the very least.
  • The applicant must also be
    • a Singapore Citizen,
    • a Singapore Permanent Resident or
    • possess a FIN issued by Immigration and Customs Authority (ICA).
  • Self-employed persons must ensure their Medisave contributions are up-to-date.
  • The application, if submitted with all supporting documents, will be processed within 12 working days. Processing time begins with effect from the date of receipt of application is to the date of approval or rejection. The applicant will be notified of the outcome via post and SMS or email.
  • Any incomplete or incorrect submission will be rejected.
  • Retail liquor and beer licenses for off-site consumption cost S$220 and are valid for 2 years once issued.

Selling Cosmetics in Singapore

  • If you wish to import and sell cosmetics products domestically, you need not apply for any product, manufacturer and import licences, as mandated by the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive. However, you must must notify the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) before placing the product in the market via the HSA’s PRISM site.
  • The fees for the notification of cosmetic products is pegged to each product’s risks and variation (color etc). For example, higher risk cosmetics are those applied on the eyes, lips, scalp and orally. On the other hand, moisturisers, face creams and skin whitening products are considered lower risk cosmetics.
  • You may only market the product after receiving an acknowledgement of your notification to the HSA. Acknowledgement is an immediate process upon successful submission of the notification.

Other Licenses

  •  Non-Residential TV License for placing a television or any equipment that receives broadcast signals at your retail outlet.
  • Copyright Licence (For Establishment) to playing or performing copyrighted music at your retail outlet.
  • Wide-area private Network Licence for establishing and providing wide area private network services such as use of walkie talkie services within a non-localised area.

Hiring Staff

Starting a retail outlet or franchise means that you may need to bring on board employees from your home country to oversee operations. If you intend to employ or transfer employees from your home country, you need to apply for the relevant Singapore employment pass on their behalf. The Singapore employment pass is however subject to approval by the manpower authority and must meet Singapore’s new productivity vision.

For more details on staff hiring, please refer to hiring guide for Singapore companies.

On a Final Note

These are the preliminary yet primary legalities while opening a retail outlet in Singapore. It is advisable to hire a professional services firm to help you set up your retail outlet and obtain the necessary licenses on your behalf as it will help you save time and resources. Kindly visit our Singapore company incorporation services page for further details on how Hawksford can assist you in setting up your retail outlet business in Singapore.

Talk to the experts in Singapore businesses

Hawksford helps entrepreneurs and international businesses set up in Singapore.

Find out more