Why It Matters

Orchard Road still relevant

Shoppers during the Christmas season in Orchard Road on Dec 17, 2014.
Shoppers during the Christmas season in Orchard Road on Dec 17, 2014.PHOTO: ST FILE

Orchard Road, once the busiest, most vibrant part of town, has taken a beating of late with slow sales and empty malls a common sight on some weekdays.

Observers say shoppers may no longer see the need to travel to town, now that they have glamorous brands at their doorsteps. COS, the higher-end sister of H&M, for instance, can be found at Jurong's Westgate.

A slide in tourist numbers is another factor, while Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan recently cited the Singapore dollar's strength and competition from other Asian nations as other factors.

On the home front, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands competes in the glitz stakes. It is home to the latest "It" bags and celebrity eateries such as Gordon Ramsay's new Bread Street Kitchen.

 

Over the weekend, as The Straits Times launched its Singapore STories: Then. Now. Tomorrow exhibition at the ArtScience Museum as part of its 170th birthday celebrations, the Marina Bay area was bustling. The waterfront offers an open space for events, leisurely walks and even bike rides, with the dramatic skyline as a backdrop. The mall is open until 11.30pm on Saturdays and 11pm on Sundays, unlike in Orchard Road, where shops close by 10pm.

Still, what does Orchard Road have in its favour?

It is an all-round experience. It is home not only to the same high-end luxury names as those in The Shoppes, but salons by celebrity stylists like Kim Robinson and David Gan, and stalwarts such as Tangs, Robinsons and Metro.

Orchard Road does not lack glitz either. Jamie's Italian by Jamie Oliver will open there this year.

Shoppers may head to heartland malls for convenience and The Shoppes for glamour, but Orchard Road offers a complete retail experience. Pedestrian Night, where the street is closed on the first Saturday night of each month, was tweaked to give shoppers more space to stroll. Now, only about a fifth of the road will be set aside for mass activities.

It doesn't have to be Orchard Road versus the rest. They can co-exist, complement one another and innovate as technology and shoppers' tastes evolve.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2015, with the headline 'Orchard Road still relevant'. Print Edition | Subscribe