Orchard Road's future lies in its past

As an "Orchard Road kid", I remember when the stretch was about much more than just retail.

In the 1970s, it was about pubs, bars, nightclubs, discos, restaurants and other attractions that were trendy, yet affordable.

It offered good, clean fun and drew tourists.

It was a lively stretch, to say the least, with a reputation for the unexpected; activities also spilt out onto the pavement, which helped bring in business.

In those days, it was not all about the money.

Now, we see a glut of shopping centres on the length and breadth of the street ("Bringing back Orchard Road buzz"; Wednesday).

There is far too much competition and an overemphasis on the high-end store.

This approach is obviously not working and is far from sustainable, especially in today's trying circumstances, with an economic gloom hovering over much of the world.

Building up so much space for shopping when consumers are faced with uncertainty seems like an oversight gone too far.

There is a need for change, and looking to the past for inspiration won't hurt.

What is required is a tweaking of mindsets on how best to use the space.

Areas have to be developed for other purposes to attract a more diverse range of people to the belt.

There needs to be more varied offerings to cater for every need, and attractions that will keep people coming back for more.

Asia's most famous shopping street has been losing its lustre for some time.

It is time for change. And Orchard Road's future may lie in its past.

Manoraj Rajathurai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2016, with the headline 'Orchard Road's future lies in its past'. Print Edition | Subscribe