Starting a Retail Business in Singapore


Retail businesses include stores or shops where owners sell goods or products directly to consumers. Due to quick economic developments, the retail industry in Singapore has been increasingly growing with a gross profit of around S$40 billion and more than 20,000 companies. If you have a considerable amount of capital and motivation to participate in this sector, this guide will show you how to start a retail business in Singapore.

Business incorporation

The first thing you need to do before your retail company can operate is to register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority. Fortunately, this is an easy and quick process which just involves 2 steps that could be done online within 1 hour. Keep in mind that the retail industry in Singapore is fully mature.

Thus, it is advisable to find unique services or products that aren’t currently available to increase your chance of success.

Premise approval

You must be sure that your chosen business premise is approved for retail purposes. If you want to set up a retail outlet in a private property or conservation building, approval from the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority is compulsory to make alterations or additions to the premise. In addition, a Certificate of Fire Safety from the Civil Defense Force of Singapore should be acquired to verify that your retail store meets fire safety requirements. If your store is based in a shopping mall, then the landlord might speed up the required approval for you.

Licenses for starting a retail business in Singapore

Depending on the type of products or goods that you want to sell, it is necessary to acquire the appropriate licenses. Below are basic guides to three most common forms of retail stores in Singapore, including supermarket, pharmacy, and telecommunication.

1. Supermarket licenses

If you want to set up a supermarket that prepares and sells cooked or raw food, then it is compulsory to acquire the License of Supermarket under the Environmental Public Health Act. This license guarantees that potential owners will meet the food safety and cleanliness guidelines, as well as prevent any food-borne disease. It often takes 5 working days for processing an online application.

The Applicant can be an individual (permanent resident or Singaporean) or company which is successfully incorporated. Also, the application must include a scaled plan of the premise which shows the layout, stores, toilets, and preparation area. The design of the supermarket should comply with the Practice of Environmental Health Code.

2. Pharmacy licenses

The first thing you need to do to set up a pharmacy store is to acquire the Pharmacy Registration Certificate from the Singapore Health Science Authority. As a first-time applicant, a business owner might nominate up to 2 employees to work as the official administrators of the company.

An application for the certification should include the following information:

  • The applicant’s particulars
  • The company registration number, store’s details, and layout plan with specific information on general sale areas,
  • The expected opening date and operating hours of the pharmacy outlet
  • Details of each area where the medicines are stored
  • The particulars of the pharmacist-in-charge, which must be registered with the Pharmacy Council of Singapore and have a Poison License - Form A’ and Poison License - Form C’ to sell medicines.

Before the Certificate would be issued, a pre-approval audit of your pharmacy store will be implemented by pharmacy auditors from the Health Science Authority. The application fee is S$500. The certificate will be valid for 1 year.

3. Telecommunication licenses

Any businesses that are planning to possess, offer, or sell telecommunication devices must acquire a License of Telecommunications Dealer.

  • Class license: This form of license is basically entity-based. Nevertheless, it is compulsory to provide the Singapore Info communications Development Authority with the telephone number and address for each premise that you open to sell the telecommunication equipment. It typically takes 2 working days and costs S$50 to get this license.
  • Individual license: An individual license is outlet-based or premise-based. This means all premises selling approved telecommunication equipment must acquire its own license. The applicant must be a business incorporated under the Business Registration Act, a company incorporated under the Companies Act, or a limited liability partnership incorporated under the Limited Liability Partnerships Act. It costs S$250 for each outlet, and the license can be valid for 5 years.
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