More mom-and-pop stores feel their businesses are doing well, according to an annual Housing Board (HDB) survey done last year.

Two in three of the 2,659 heartland shopkeepers polled said they were satisfied with their business, up from 54 per cent in 2011. One in four felt their business would improve in the next half-year, up from the previous year's 19 per cent.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who revealed these figures on his blog yesterday, promised that HDB would do its best to help shopkeepers.

"HDB shops perform important social functions. Besides creating jobs for local residents, they provide daily convenience for our heartlanders and help to keep the cost of living affordable," he said.

He urged shopkeepers to take advantage of government schemes such as the Revitalisation of Shops, where HDB partially funds the upgrading of shops and their promotional events.

Of the shops surveyed, almost one in two was located in a neighbourhood centre. Another one-third were precinct shops and a fifth were in town centres. It was the town centre shopkeepers who were more optimistic about their future.

Mr Chok Shin Tay, 53, whose medical hall is located on the ground floor of a block in Clementi, said: "Here in the neighbourhood, it's the elderly who frequent the shops... Young people with more spending power take their cars and go elsewhere."

Several shopkeepers told The Straits Times that two things worried them: competition from bigger players nearby, and difficulty in hiring helpers.

Provision shop owner Sarasupathy Muthiah, 55, said: "I have a competitor, a big supermarket nearby. But I still have all my customers with me, regulars who live around here."

Family members help out at her shop in 888 Plaza on Woodlands Drive 50. "We can't hire Singaporeans because they don't like to work long hours, and it's hard to get foreign workers," she said.