Category Archives: Shopping

Wear an Artpiece, Touch a Legacy (Introduction to Batik Art and fashion)

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

“Batik is a technique of manual wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth, or cloth made using this technique. Batik is made either by drawing dots and lines of the resist with a spouted tool called a canting, or by printing the resist with a copper stamp called a cap. The applied wax resists dyes and therefore allows the artisan to color selectively by soaking the cloth in one color, removing the wax with boiling water, and repeating if multiple colors are desired.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCA tradition of making batik is found in various countries, including Nigeria, China, India, Malaysia, Philippines and Sri Lanka; the batik of Indonesia, however, is the most well-known. Indonesian batik made in the island of Java has a long history of acculturation, with diverse patterns influenced by a variety of cultures, and is the most developed in terms of pattern, technique, and the quality of workmanship. On October 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. ”

Batik art was rather unappealing to me for quite a long time. Preferring contemporary art work, I thought Batik art as somewhat outdated and unfashionable. Even old Chinese art fascinated me more than Batik. The closest encounter I had with Batik art, was during a trip to Genting in 2001. It was during a short trip shortly after my graduation when my friends and I were thinking of visiting the casino, but we were not in the right attire. Based on the management, we have to wear either collared formal or Batik wear. Being newly-minted engineering graduates then, our apparel style was just the basic streetwear of T-shirts and jeans. That killed off any idea of visiting the casino there even till now, as well as any positive feel in this art ironically.

After the visit to Kiah’s Gallery in 71 Unit B Sultan Gate, my encounter for Batik art took a new twist. The owners of the gallery, Yati and Ain, introduced  a new batik world to my partner and I . What I thought as just some outdated craft in making clothes is actually a detailed art with centuries of history. It has influences from Chinese, Indian, Dutch and other cultures, which periodically have a major influence in the South-East Asia region over the past millennia. Every fabric has a story to tell and a culture to teach.

SAMSUNG CSCUsing each batik fabric, one can tailor into fashionable apparel according to one’s needs. Kiah’s Gallery is retailer of Batik art as well as customizer of batik wear. Their passion to revive the dying batik art propelled them to share with the public, using dedicated craftwork and skillful hands into an fashionable wear one can put on their body.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCEvery batik fabric is an delicate piece of art. The fine prints as well as the details of every step can be observed on the fabric itself.

SAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSCAt Kiah’s Gallery, the owners have prepared many fashion wear based on the batik fabric. Styles similar to Chinese, Arabic, African and modern wear can be found in Kiah’s Gallery. Each batik fabric can be bought from $35 onwards, while each fashion artwear can be had from $100 onwards.

If you are interested to find out more, you can visit Kiah’s Gallery @ 71B Sultan Gate in Kampong Glam. 71 sultan gate

Rents down, vacancy rate up for retail space

Rents of retail and office space weakened in the second quarter, hit by a faltering retail sector and tepid economic growth.

Retail rents were down 0.5 per cent in the second quarter, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday.

The retail sector has been battling lower tourist numbers and a tight labour market. The relative strength of the Singapore dollar has also made it more costly for foreigners and even Singaporeans to shop here, experts say.

As a result, while available retail floor space rose by about 258,300 sq ft in the second quarter, vacant floor space increased around 269,100 sq ft. This sent the vacancy rate for retail space up 0.4 percentage point to 7.2 per cent, the highest since the URA made available data in the first quarter of 2011.

Capitol Piazza and residential mixed developments Novena Regency and RV Point were among projects with retail space completed in the second quarter.


The proliferation of space is not good news for an already weak retail scene.

MR KU SWEE YONG, Century 21 chief executive officer, on the increased vacancy of retail space

Some of the retail space completed was from non-traditional sources, including industrial mixed development CT Hub 2 and a warehouse and commercial building in Sungei Kadut Drive, noted Mr Ku Swee Yong, Century 21 chief executive officer. “Developers of strata-titled units will usually try to include the maximum retail space… as retail, in theory, should command higher rents. But the proliferation of space is not good news for an already weak retail scene.”

Median rents in the central area, which includes the Downtown Core and Orchard, fell 0.6 per cent while those in the fringe areas, including Newton, Outram, Bishan, Geylang and Queenstown, were down 0.3 per cent.

A CBRE report earlier this month said average prime retail rents for Orchard Road declined at a marginal rate of 0.1 per cent for the quarter while suburban rents were flat. “Limited prime space in the Orchard Road and suburban sub-markets will help to stabilise prime rents,” it said.

Retail rents could fall by up to 5 per cent this year, with space consolidation likely among non-food and beverage retailers, said R’ST Research director Ong Kah Seng.

Office rents declined by 2.6 per cent, the first drop since the first quarter of 2013. The fall was slightly more pronounced in the central area, where rents fell 2.6 per cent. Rents were down 2.4 per cent in the fringe area. However, absorption was steady as the vacancy rate went from 10.2 per cent to 9.8 per cent in the second quarter.

But “broad weakness in the office leasing market, along with record supply, is expected to push vacancy rates sharply up (next year),” said Ms Christine Li, director of research for Cushman & Wakefield. She attributed the rental decline to lacklustre second-quarter gross domestic product growth of 1.7 per cent and the supply overhang of close to four million sq ft of prime space arriving next year.

“Another source of weakness is due to the Government’s restrictive foreign labour policy, with first-quarter office-using employment increasing by a mere 2,700 workers, the lowest level since the first quarter of 2009 during the global financial crisis,” she added.

The outlook for the office leasing market is grim, given that the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Monetary Authority of Singapore are reviewing their growth forecast of 2 to 4 per cent for this year, she said. “With more companies seeking space rationalisation in this challenging business environment…we expect rents to continue declining over the next six consecutive quarters.”

ST: Bringing back Buzz to Orchard Road

If there is one commodity you can find easily at Orchard Road these days, it’s the doldrums. Anywhere you look, someone is peddling a downbeat message.

The latest came from property consultancy Cushman and Wakefield, which reported that rents of prime retail space have fallen to a four-year low in Singapore’s premier shopping strip.

Then there are the lacklustre economy that is keeping spending in check, the rise of suburban malls and online shopping and fewer tourist arrivals.

Add in reports that long-time retailer Metro was disappointed with the level of sales rung up after moving to The Centrepoint, or that the newest mall, orchardgateway, lacks shoppers, and it’s hard not to get the impression of an Oscar-winning actress past her prime.

But take all these portents of doom with a pinch of salt. Orchard Road has been a shopping haven since the 1960s and it isn’t going to lose its crown without a fight.


Take a stroll along Orchard Road and the Singapore business scene unfolds in front of you. Old money, new kids on the block, Singapore corporates and foreign players are all present. Regional diplomacy is on show with the sprawling Thai Embassy offering a stretch of greenery and calm.

Take a short detour along Scotts Road, where the Sultan of Brunei lends a royal touch with his Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel. Shaw House and Shaw Centre, built by entertainment moguls the Shaw Brothers, represent the presence of old money.

Take a stroll along Orchard Road and the Singapore business scene unfolds in front of you. Old money, new kids on the block, Singapore corporates and foreign players are all present. Regional diplomacy is on show with the sprawling Thai Embassy offering a stretch of greenery and calm.

The portfolio of some of the biggest firms in Singapore is on show here, including City Developments. Far East Organization, whose founder Ng Teng Fong earned the moniker “King of Orchard Road” for developing eight malls in the stretch – it has recently added a ninth – still stands tall. It owns Orchard Central, large chunks of Orchard Towers and Far East Shopping Centre, among other jewels.

Tycoon Ong Beng Seng speaks for the rest of this stretch with HPL House, Forum The Shopping Mall, and the Hilton Singapore and Four Seasons hotels.

Ion Orchard, developed by CapitaLand in a joint venture, adds a wealth of glitzy charm with its unusual facade and duplex flagship stores of top designers.

Singapore Press Holdings’ Paragon and its expensive shops help give the shopping belt an air of exclusivity. Frasers Centrepoint owns The Centrepoint while OCBC Bank owns orchardgateway. Australia’s Lend Lease has made its foray into Orchard Road with 313@somerset.

But imposing Ngee Ann City, owned by the Ngee Ann Kongsi, with its Civic Plaza the centre of any action, continues to dominate Orchard Road.


International brands still continue to make Orchard Road their first port of call when they come to South-east Asia. Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M and American casual wear brand Abercrombie & Fitch opened mega-stores in the vicinity to much fanfare in 2011.

American sports apparel brand Under Armour opened its first South-east Asia outlet at orchardgateway in May last year .

French-Italian apparel and lifestyle brand Moncler will launch its first South-east Asia stand-alone boutique, slated to be completed by the end of this year, in Ion Orchard.


Shopping in Orchard Road remains an experience that can’t be found elsewhere. Dr Lee Nai Jia, DTZ research head, said the street has constantly been reinventing itself. He and various industry players cite events such as annual fashion extravaganza Fashion Steps Out and Pedestrian Night. Both are initiatives by the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) and the Singapore Tourism Board.

Mr Mark Shaw, Shaw Organi- sation’s executive vice-president and Orba chairman, said: “It’s a day out. Even if you live next to Jurong Gateway, or Nex in Serangoon, the pedestrian street experience differentiates Orchard Road. You can walk the entire length and pop into any shop you choose. It’s not just a single mall in the suburbs.”

Malls owners are kept on their toes with the new competition.

“Six years after Mandarin Gallery was launched, we have to go about updating our tenancy mix to ensure that the mall remains relevant,” said Dr Stephen Riady, executive chairman of OUE, which holds Mandarin Orchard Singapore and Mandarin Gallery through OUE Hospitality Trust. Mandarin Gallery had a $200 million facelift and opened in January 2010 with high-end shopping in mind. Dr Riady said the mall has a part to play in upkeeping Orchard Road’s reputation of a “world-class shopping street”.

Certainly, the retail sector is risky to begin with, said Knight Frank Singapore executive chairman Tan Tiong Cheng. “Every five to seven years, you need to do some repositioning and strategic thinking.”

Shaw Centre and Shaw House completed their revamp in November, while Tangs started a $45 million revamp of its store in 2012.


Critics may say Orchard Road has stood still but the new malls near Somerset MRT station that replaced an open-air carpark and tired buildings prove them wrong. Lend Lease’s 313@somerset and Far East Organization’s Orchard Central opened their doors in 2009, while orchardgateway opened last year.

Now that the area around the Somerset station is up and running, the action is moving elsewhere.

The eight-storey Cairnhill Place carpark – part of the Cairnhill Place property – closed in 2012 for the site to be redeveloped by CapitaLand.

Nearby, the new 268 Orchard Road, formerly the Yen San Building, is being connected to The Heeren via basement and overhead walkways. These will put Orchard Road on a par with other inter-connected shopping havens like Hong Kong.

Further along the stretch, Hong Fok Corporation, which owns International Building, is redeveloping the adjoining carpark and the land parcel between the Thai Embassy and International Building, which it also owns. The carpark site – which drivers can see as they exit the Shaw Centre carpark – is being developed into a 30-storey, 610-room hotel to be operated by British brand Yotel.


This stretch of the Orchard Road shopping belt, from Far East Shopping Centre to Tanglin Mall, has seen little change in the past decade or so, with the exception of luxury hotel St Regis Singapore, which opened in December 2007.

Mr Kwek Leng Beng, whose City Developments and Hong Leong Group own several properties here, called for a more cohesive approach for the entire belt, for the Orchard Road precinct to retain its lustre.

R’ST Research director Ong Kah Seng said new strata malls could bring in more innovation from small retailers, which can offer personalised services and products.

Orchard Road enjoyed a big lift when the Orchard and Somerset MRT stations were built and Mr Kwek is confident the same will happen when the upcoming Orchard Boulevard MRT station on the new Thomson Line, near Camden Medical Centre, is completed, probably by the end of 2021.

“The future redevelopment potential lies in the upper Orchard area,” Mr Kwek said.

Mr Shaw still believes in the Orchard Road experience. He said: “Between all the buildings, there are plenty of offerings… When I go out for lunch, I regularly walk from Shaw Centre to pretty much anywhere; it’s great. These are the strengths of Orchard Road.”

You can also check out our online interactive graphic for more details about each building.

Suntec Reit sells Park Mall

Suntec Real Estate Investment Trust (Suntec Reit) has entered into a conditional sale agreement for the sale of Park Mall at a price of S$411.8 million, said the Reit manager ARA Trust Management (Suntec) on Monday.

The sale price is based on a property valuation by Colliers International.

Suntec Reit will use part of the proceeds from the sale to fund a joint venture company which has been set up to redevelop Park Mall into a commercial development comprising two office blocks and a retail component.

Suntec Reit has a 30 per cent interest in the joint venture company, Park Mall Investment Limited. Phoenix 99 and Haiyi Holdings each have a 35 per cent interest in the joint venture.

Suntec Reit acquired Park Mall in 2005 for S$245.1 million. Park Mall is an integrated office, lifestyle and home furnishing mall located next to Dhoby Ghaut MRT.

The property is more than 40 years old, with remaining land lease tenure of 53 years.

ARA Trust chief executive Yeo See Kiat said in a statement that the redevelopment would enhance the gross floor area of the site.

Suntec Reit will also have the ability to own part of the redeveloped property by acquiring one office block upon completion, he said.

Orchard Road retail rental falls

When Hidayu Mustaafa craves for retail therapy, she walks to a mall five minutes from her home in the eastern suburb of Tampines instead of travelling to Orchard Road.

That is bad news for the shopping district’s glitzy malls, which showcase brands such as Inditex’s Zara and H&M, as well as luxury names like Chanel and Prada.

Increased competition from suburban malls and online retailers, combined with falling tourist numbers from China and Indonesia, have hurt spending and pushed retail rents to their lowest since 2011.

Average monthly gross rents of prime retail space in Orchard Road slipped 1 per cent in the second quarter from the previous three months to $37.79 per square foot, according to property consultants Cushman and Wakefield.

“It is more imperative than ever that shopping malls innovate and refresh shopping experiences to stay ahead of the competition,” said Ms Christine Li, the real estate consultant’s research head in Singapore, adding that less-established malls with little differentiation will underperform.

Department store operator Isetan has ceased its operations at Wisma Atria and is in the midst of leasing out the space to other retailers. It recently signed a deal to lease out a basement floor to a retailer of ladies fast-fashion apparel. The lease will commence at the end of the third quarter.

Meanwhile, it is engaged in further discussions with potential tenants for the leasing of the other floors. While it endeavours to lease out all the remaining floors, “there is no assurance that it would be able to achieve full tenancy for the premises at Wisma Atria due to market conditions or commercial reasons”, it warned.

At least one mall has decided to recently revive its offerings.

Wheelock Properties’ Scotts Square, where occupancy rates have been on a downtrend, has said it would bring in notable brands, such as fashion label Alexander McQueen, and Belgian fine-leather goods-maker Delvaux.

Cushman and Wakefield’s Ms Li expects Orchard retail rentals to fall 2.1 per cent by the end of this year from the end of last month, while suburban mall rentals could prove more resilient and remain flat. “It’s a very challenging retail environment still for Orchard Road, but the bright spot is that there is no (new) supply in market (until 2018),” Ms Li said.

It is not all gloom, though. A recent ranking by global property adviser CBRE showed that Singapore is second only to Tokyo in the retail business, having attracted 58 new retail brands last year, just shy of Tokyo’s 63.

The report also noted Singapore’s capacity to showcase new brands was boosted by orchardgateway, Orchard Road’s newest mall with a fashion slant, and the Shaw Centre’s recently renovated retail section.

CMT exploring how to unlock Funan’s space value

CapitaLand Mall Trust (CMT) may finally be closer to unlocking the value of its additional gross floor area at Funan DigitaLife Mall after years of speculation on the space.

In a Singapore Exchange filing on Wednesday evening, the trust’s manager said it is “exploring its options” with regard to the mall.

The options include disposing of or redeveloping the centre, it added.

The mall received provisional permission in 2007 to build a nine-storey commercial block of mostly offices to maximise unutilised GFA. These plans were put on the back burner due to the global financial crisis and weak sentiment.

According to last year’s URA Masterplan, the plot ratio for Funan is 7, but currently it is built only up to about 4.3, noted Cushman & Wakefield research director Christine Li.

The extra 380,000 sq ft or so of unused GFA would likely be used for offices, said Mr Desmond Sim, CBRE head of research for Singapore and South-east Asia.

“There is a maximum threshold to how many levels of retail space make sense. Upwards of four floors, the rent one can command would be comparable to office rents.”

Redevelopment is also an option as the mall’s design may be inefficient for modern retail requirements, said Chestertons managing director Donald Han. “For example, as an IT mall, you have many goods lifts, which is not so effective in an age where everyone uses smartphones and desktops are no longer in demand… The basement area, usually dense in pedestrian footfall, has not been well-utilised as well, as it is mainly used as a carpark.”

Funan’s value was stated at $361 million as at Dec 31. It appears to have been performing worse than CMT’s other assets. Its annual report last year showed it had the second-lowest rental reversion across all malls in the portfolio.

Its occupancy rate dipped from 100 per cent in 2012 to 97.9 per cent last year, while its net property income fell from $22.1 million in 2013 to $21.7 million last year.

Possible suitors could come from private equity, said Mr Han. CLSA Capital Partners, for example, bought retail and office development PoMo in 2011, later selling it to a joint venture between BS Capital and Enviro-Hub Holdings in 2013.

“There is a lot of private equity money that is hungry for retail assets, and there are not many of such assets with redevelopment potential in the central area,” he said.

Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre upgrading

The 32-year-old Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre is undergoing improvement works, and sellers there are hopeful that a refurbished centre will draw the crowds back.

Some areas in the centre were hoarded up when The Straits Times visited earlier this month.

According to the signs put up, a wider carpark driveway will be completed by the end of this month, and a linkway between Blocks 13 and 14 will be built by end-September. The centre remains open during this period.

HDB called for an expression of interest last month for a consultant to carry out further improvement works by mid-2017, such as building more covered walkways and roof extensions, upgrading common toilets and repainting the facade of the centre.

The cost of the renovations is not available as the proposals are not finalised.

Mr Tay Khiam Back, chairman of the centre’s association, said stallholders will also benefit from new coldrooms currently under construction.

“The previous system was designed more than 30 years ago and is getting old,” he said.

Sellers and shoppers said the renovations works are a long time coming.

The centre, made up of 26 blocks, opened in 1983 to centralise the distribution of vegetables, fruits and dried goods.

Sellers said that the number of walk-in customers has dwindled over the years as people preferred to shop for groceries in the comfort of supermarkets instead of the non-air-conditioned centre.

Madam Sim Cho Hwang, the 62-year-old boss of Shen Trading and Wholesale, a dried goods store in the centre, said: “It is about time they did something about the carpark. It has been the same size since 1983, and there are cracks in the carpark grounds.”

With perspiration running down her face, she added: “I hope they make the roof higher, so there is better ventilation. It is very hot in here.”

Madam Noor Sinah Abdul Gani, who shops at the centre once a week, said she is looking forward to the covered walkways and wider carpark driveway.

The 58-year-old, who sells spices at a Jurong East market, said: “The centre is quite dirty and disorganised now, and the carpark is small and congested.”

Singapore a magnet for global retail brands

Retail brands still flock to Singapore because it offers not just hordes of shoppers but also regional exposure and myriad business opportunities.

Mr Vincent Soh, orchard-gateway’s chief executive, told The Straits Times: “It is a place where you want to expand your brand’s presence overseas, especially in the context of South-east Asia.”

Having a shopfront in Orchard Road, the glitziest part of town, not only boosts a brand’s presence but also attracts potential business partners in the region.

These could be corporate clients who may be potential franchisees and business partners, said Nanyang Technological University’s Dr Lynda Wee, an adjunct associate professor specialising in retail management.

A recent ranking by global property adviser CBRE showed Singapore is second only to Tokyo in the retail business, having attracted 58 new retail brands last year, just shy of Tokyo’s 63.

The report also noted Singapore’s capacity to showcase new brands was boosted by orchardgateway, Orchard Road’s newest mall with a fashion slant, and the Shaw Centre’s recently renovated retail section.

Singapore test bed

Singapore is ideal as a test bed for brands looking to break into South-east Asian markets.

Global brands need to curate their merchandise and services to suit Asian tastes, said Dr Wee. “With success, they can roll out to other Asian cities. Singapore is a place for them to prototype, improve and curate… experimenting till they get it right.”

Mr David Tang, chief executive of Metro’s retail business, said many Western brands want to expand in Asia and others want to come as the growth is here.

He added: “I’m not so sure about the word ‘test bed’ but brands either go straight to China or they come and establish a regional market here.”

Brands opening here include jeans maker American Eagle Outfitters (AEO), arriving on June 19, and French label American Vintage, which recently opened at Takashimaya Shopping Centre.

Mr Kareem Gahed, AEO’s vice-president – Asia-Pacific and global country licensing, described the Singapore market as vibrant, and said “the Asia-Pacific channel is an immense opportunity for AEO”, being one of the brand’s most developed zones outside North America, with a presence in multiple countries.

He said: “Singapore’s strategic geographic location and economic strength solidify its position as the gateway to the South-east Asian market and further increase AEO’s presence within the region. The market in Singapore is diverse, with a vibrant mixture of locals and tourists, and thus fits the brand personality of AEO.”

The mature retail market in Singapore provides strong infrastructure and support for brands like AEO to enter the market with confidence, he added.

When retailers see others coming into Singapore, it builds the country’s reputation as an attractive retail destination.

“It does help put Singapore under the global spotlight to be selected as a pilot launch pad outside the brand’s home country,” said Ms Lynne Lim, Asia-Pacific business head at Red Scout, an online trainer for those in beauty and fashion retailing. She cited Louis Vuitton’s flagship store at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, the first floating boutique in the world and the biggest boutique in South-east Asia.

Ms Lim said having “such publicity can have positive spillover effects into other related or support sectors of our economy”.

Mr Soh added that if businesses are coming to a country to invest, there are many other factors such as political stability which matter, and Singapore is still an overall attractive destination.


But setting up shop in Singapore is no guarantee of success, possibly given low sales and rising rents.

Cult lifestyle retailer Goods of Desire closed its shop in Clarke Quay in April, a grim end to the Hong Kong brand’s first foray overseas. Japanese fashion label Lowrys Farm left in February.

They followed a string of international retailers ceasing operations last year, including Japanese lifestyle store Francfranc, skincare brand Fancl and mid-tier fashion brand River Island.

Malls in Orchard Road are experiencing slowing shopper traffic as tourist numbers have declined.

For example, tenants of the one-year-old orchardgateway – which has two diagonally facing buildings on either side of Orchard Road – have reported slow shopper traffic. However, for the past six months, the complex, with a net lettable area (NLA) of 170,000 sq ft, has grown to an average 11.8 shoppers per month per sq ft (psf), up from 8.8 in its first six months.

Wisma Atria reported that it attracted 26.6 million shoppers last year, or about 17 shoppers per month psf in retail NLA of about 127,000 sq ft, for instance.

The Atrium@Orchard – with a retail podium that is an extension of Plaza Singapura – reports 25.4 million shoppers a year, or about 15 shoppers per month psf in retail NLA of about 137,000 sq ft.

Retail experts, however, noted that heartland malls provide stiff competition as they offer the same brands, sometimes with even bigger and better-stocked outlets.

The oft-heard comment from locals who live away from Orchard Road is that they can often find many of the same masstige – mass prestige – retail brands in the heartland malls, so there is no real need to go shopping at Orchard Road, Ms Lim said.

This rings true for personal assistant See Chiew Yen, 50, who said: “I have no preference for shopping at either area because heartland malls like Jem have big brands too.”

On the other hand, there are still tourists who are drawn to the bright lights of Orchard Road, empty stores notwithstanding.

Ms Kim Wyatt, 48, from New Zealand, was unfazed by the largely empty Centrepoint, which is undergoing renovation. “It’s the first mall I’ve been to and it’s so big. I’m enjoying my shopping experience… Singapore is an attractive city – clean and efficient.”

Attracting shoppers and brands

Orchard Road is still the most popular shopping location, said CBRE’s report, so it’s up to the retail industry and even government bodies to keep the buzz going.

orchardgateway’s Mr Soh pointed out that empty-looking malls may not indicate a dire situation. “High shopper traffic in a mall doesn’t necessarily equate to high spending. Similarly, lower shopper traffic doesn’t equate to less spending. It depends on the nature of the trade, such as luxury or mass-market goods.”

Tangs creative director Christelle Vaillant feels emerging labels could have higher appeal. She said: “These brands are in more exclusive, hard-to-find locations, and the majority of their customers are niche audiences… so your average shopper or tourist may not realise these brands are, in fact, available in Singapore.”

Mr Soh agreed, noting there are “destination retailers” with a loyal following. Local names have also done well at orchardgateway, including men’s multi-label store Sects Shop, multi-label street-wear outlet Actually and Superspace, the home to many fashion labels and a hair salon.

In other words, these shoppers know what they want and head directly for the shop. “They also have online stores, which complement the brick and mortar stores. Those familiar with the online store like to go down to get a feel of the product. Those who aren’t will in turn be introduced to the online store,” said Mr Soh.

Department stores and retailers are upping their game as well. Metro launched its online shopping website in January, Tangs has an e-store, and by the end of the year, customers will be able to shop online at Robinsons.

And there is no denying that the game is getting tougher.

Mr Eric Tong, assistant director of the retail business group at Far East Organisation, which owns malls such as Orchard Central, said brands need to constantly evolve and “move beyond functional products to one that has an experiential and emotive connection with consumers to gain a foothold and success”.

orchardgateway is doing its part with its glass link bridge and lighted signage, for instance. It also reaped more gross floor area when it was redeveloped under the Orchard Road Redevelopment Commission (Ordec). Ordec was set up by the Urban Redevelopment Authority to encourage innovation to existing properties.

Mr Soh said: “We should look at cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul, and see why they have that buzz. For a long time, we’ve been trying to understand why and how they create that buzz, and how to do that in Singapore.”

L Capital Asia bids to buy Jones the Grocer

The final bids to buy Jones the Grocer’s Singapore business were accepted on Friday last week, with majority shareholder L Capital Asia putting in a bid to buy the company.

The target is to complete the sale by next month. It is not known how many bids were received, and how much was offered.

The gourmet grocer’s Singapore arm, Jones the Grocer International (JTGI), was earlier placed under judicial management – where an external manager is appointed to manage a company that cannot pay its debts.

Its assets – including two outlets in Dempsey Hill and Mandarin Gallery – were put up for sale.

Its parent company, Jones Group Holdings in Australia, went into administration last December due to disputes between its former chief executive and shareholder John Manos, and majority shareholder L Capital – the equity arm of luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Mr Manos also ran Jones the Grocer’s day-to-day operations in Singapore.

The firm terminated Mr Manos’ employment as chief executive late last year, and then applied to the Singapore courts to place JTGI under judicial management.

It succeeded in March, and PwC Singapore’s business recovery services leader Goh Thien Phong was appointed judicial manager.

By then, JTGI had accumulated about $19 million in total liabilities.

The two Jones the Grocer outlets in Dempsey Hill and Mandarin Gallery are operating as usual.

Seletar Mall officially opens

SINGAPORE – The latest shopping destination in the northern part of Singapore has officially opened its doors on Thursday (May 21).

The Seletar Mall, developed by The Seletar Mall Pte Ltd, is a joint venture company between Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and United Engineers Limited (UE).

Conveniently connected to Fernvale Light Rail Transit (LRT) station which links to Sengkang North-East Line (NEL) MRT / LRT station and Sengkang bus interchange, The Seletar Mall has six levels of retail and three levels of parking.

The opening ceremony held earlier today was officiated by Guest of Honour Dr Lam Pin Min, Minister-of-State, Ministry of Health and Member of Parliament and Grassroots Advisor for Sengkang West GROs, together with Dr Lee Boon Yang, Chairman of SPH, Mr Tony Mallek, Chairman of The Seletar Mall Pte Ltd and Mr Roy Tan, Group CFO of UE.

More than 200 invited guests including tenants and partners of The Seletar Mall attended the event.

The family-oriented mall, with 100 per cent occupancy, houses over 130 shops.

The destination mall has plenty to offer from fashion to F&B choices. Key tenants include UNIQLO, BHG departmental store, Foodfare foodcourt and Amore Fitness & Boutique Spa.

Those wanting to catch movies can do so as Shaw Theatres cineplex is located there.

To celebrate the mall’s official opening, all shoppers will enjoy free parking from 9am to 5pm on May 21.

In addition, the first 100 shoppers who present a cut-out coupon from the mall’s congratulatory advertisement and have a minimum spend of $30 (maximum three receipts combined) can redeem a limited edition tote bag.