Mall developers bet on trends to draw traffic

A Uniqlo outlet that is set to open at One KM Mall in Tanjong Katong. One KM is one of three new malls slated to open by Christmas, and like some malls today, it counts Uniqlo among its anchor tenants.
A Uniqlo outlet that is set to open at One KM Mall in Tanjong Katong. One KM is one of three new malls slated to open by Christmas, and like some malls today, it counts Uniqlo among its anchor tenants.ST PHOTO: RUDY WONG

SINGAPORE - Despite an anaemic retail scene, some fashion houses such as Uniqlo and H&M are doing a roaring trade and expanding their footprints.

From One Raffles Place to Kallang Wave Mall, developers of malls both new and revamped have been touting Uniqlo and H&M as anchor tenants - a marked shift from the old formula.

"The typical mall used to be one with a cinema, foodcourt and supermarket. But now the retail market has evolved so much, it's H&M, Uniqlo and Daiso that make up the typical mall," said Knight Frank head of retail Heidi Yong.

By Christmas, H&M will have added three stores here this year, and Uniqlo seven.

"Since our opening four years ago, customers' response has been very positive," said an H&M spokesman. For the nine months to August this year, H&M net sales here increased 29 per cent from a year ago.

Meanwhile, some developers are betting that men's fashion will be a new growth area. Over at orchardgateway mall, there is a dedicated men's floor that counts a retro-chic barber shop, a bespoke shoemaker and an array of boutiques among tenants.

"Modern shoppers are no longer content with mass-produced fashion or even high-end luxury brands. They desire more diverse styles, edgy designs as well as indie labels," said the mall's management.

"Shopper traffic is healthy at this stage and we believe it can definitely be better in the upcoming festive period."

Developers are also offering mall-goers more dining choices as the food and beverage sector continues to outperform other sectors that make up the retail sales index.

Five years ago, F&B made up no more than 20 per cent of the tenant mix at the average mall.

"Now, we wouldn't be surprised if it hits 40 per cent," said Mr Desmond Lim, head of CBRE Research Singapore. "Landlords think that a mall is no longer a point of pure transaction, but a lifestyle experience."

The Japanese wave retains a strong presence in themed dining options here. Last month, Isetan announced plans to lease out one floor of its Wisma Atria department store to Japanese restaurants and food kiosks, "to spread Japanese food culture".

Other lifestyle concepts include the monthly pedestrian night organised by the Orchard Road Business Association and the introduction of a mixed martial arts organisation to Orchard Central.

With three new malls slated to open by Christmas - namely, Big Box, One KM and Capitol Piazza - tougher competition is expected to continue to drive change in the retail landscape.

"Retail malls, new and revamped, face the same challenges and the trend continues to be one of differentiation," said JLL head of research for South-east Asia Chua Yang Liang.

marilee@sph.com.sg