Singapore likes to portray itself as a shopping paradise. Indeed, as the 'Great Singapore Sale' gets underway, this year the tourism board is hoping to attract high-end buyers through advertorials highlighting the great designer sales, from Versace to Armani, which will be available for a limited period on Orchard Road, the main shopping strip. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? In a place where land is reportedly so scarce you can only be buried for 15 years before having to make space for another corpse, can one have too many shopping centres? While Orchard Road's many ever-popular centres have spent the last year getting a new lick of paint, with more major renovations being planned, some in more remote parts are apparently becoming ghost towns. Recently it was reported that two centres have been unable to give away space. Unfortunately, quantity does not always equate to quality and while some shopping complexes have tried to find a distinct identity by catering to a special segment of buyers, too many are still offering shoppers a bland and indistinct list of retailers, making them all look the same. Yes, Singapore offers many shopping opportunities, but there are also a lot of uninteresting shops featuring run-of-the-mill products. Compared with a shopping mecca like Paris, where many streets are lined with small, distinctive shops offering original and different products, Singapore has a long way to go (and this is not my French heritage speaking). One interesting development has been the rise in the number of small carts in the more popular shopping centres. Sellers peddle ethnic wares, homemade jewellery, intricate handbags and so forth, offering a distinctive alternative to shoppers, who seem to be slowly embracing the concept that different is good. With low overheads and rental, these little carts are prompting many entrepreneurs to come forth (particularly young first-timers) and the local media has reported a waiting list for the most sought-after spots. Shopping is no longer the great draw it once was, and the grand sales at the major outlets no longer have the same pulling power. The reality is that many retailers always have a sale on and it is difficult to tell when one starts and another ends. Certainly, few items are ever at the 'usual price' and advertising standards are treated as something for others to worry about. For some, the Great Sale started some weeks ago, and no doubt I will probably join the masses in hitting the pavements at some stage, although this year I have at least done my homework.