HALF of Singapore seemed to be there as usual, and it wasn't even the weekend yet.
But are these visitors to the IT Show 2009 at Suntec Convention Centre buyers or just lookers?
Now in its third day, the show remains packed with people despite the recession.
But some smaller vendors say visitors are not opening their wallets, while the bigger boys reported retaining sales numbers but at lower profit margins.
Mr David Ong, 43, business development manager of Direction Enterprises, a computer accessories and storage distributor, was helping out at Z-Nix Trading, one of his clients. 'Last year's result was good, but this year, I'm very disappointed,' he said.
He said the Z-Nix first-day sales revenue fell from last year's $50,000 to about $20,000. He had seven dealers with booths at the IT show, and all of them saw similar drops in revenue on the first day.
One vendor, who wanted to be known only as MrLai, said he saw a 20 to 30 per cent drop in sales on the first day. Prices in general are also 5 to 10 per cent lower because of the recession. But he wasn't worried.
'In the first two days, consumers will be here collecting information... they will purchase on the last day, at the last minute, when they can bargain,' said Mr Lai, 25, the general manager of Xenac Technologies.
Local firm Pursuit Pte Ltd, which distributes PowerPro, its own brand of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) sets, is a newcomer to the IT Show.
But its managing director, Miss Cheryl Tong, 29, has been here when she worked for another UPS company.
'Yes, yesterday was slow compared with previous times... You can tell the difference, a lot of lookers, not so many buyers,' she said.
On the first day, Pursuit sold 10 PowerPro UPS sets, with prices ranging from $68 to $438. But even if she had sold none at all, she would have been okay.
UPS sets usually don't fly off the shelves. For her, this is a chance to create brand awareness and to promote UPS in general. And she said business seemed to be picking up on the second day.
The big names seem to be faring better.
Mr Goh Cheng How, 36, NEC's senior manager for marketing programmes and communications, Asia-Pacific, said he had not seen a drop in sales.
He said NEC was aware the market was soft, so it planned ahead, to target the mass market. With notebooks, for example, it went for low-to-midrange prices (around $1,100) but with high specifications.
This meant lower margins, but he said: 'Retaining market share in the current challenging market conditions is important to us. We have to fight for it.'
NEC also offered notebooks bundled with memory upgrades and other accessories. He suggested this may be why the smaller shops are seeing a hit - if cash-strapped shoppers are given everything with their notebooks, they may not buy more accessories.
Mrs Joanne Wee, 36, marketing consultant at electronics supermarket Audio House, said prices this year were definitely more competitive.
Audio House slashed prices by 60 per cent on some 42-inch TVs. 'It ate into our margins, for sure,' she said.
But sales had remained buoyant so far. She said: 'When there are good deals, people will still buy.'
Branded goods still a hit
Mr Raymond Lam, 47, senior manager at megastore Courts, said he saw a small increase in first-day sales over last year.
With its own booth and jointly running eight others with other suppliers, Courts had a large presence.
He said LCD screens and netbooks were the big sellers for them this year. And it's basically because of the price that they were doing well.
'We bring in our goods in bulk, at lower cost, and we pass the savings to consumers,' he said.
Mr Melvin Koh, general manager of the IT Show, said that if the smaller businesses are seeing a hit, it may be because consumers are going for branded goods.
The second day of the show yesterday recorded 170,000 visitors and sales of $12.5 million - both about 3.5 per cent higher than last year's figures.
He said many products, such as certain printers, have already gone out of stock, and distributors are rushing to deliver the goods for the weekend.
'I think they didn't expect the sales to be so encouraging, so they had to replenish,' he said.
The IT Show 2009 will end tomorrow.
This story was first published in The New Paper.