An upcoming review of Orchard Road's Pedestrian Night should be boiled down to one question: How to ensure events held there are anything but pedestrian? A concept that proves humdrum or is fixated on trade is likely to defeat its raison d'etre. That, as many would agree, is to create buzz in a city that aspires to be as lively as its cosmopolitan rivals. In the process, it will help ensure Orchard Road's shine is not dimmed by the lure of other shopping nodes.
The Pedestrian Night has attracted 50,000 people on average and was cited by 70 per cent of visitors polled by STB as a reason to return here. But fresh ideas are being called for by Singapore Tourism Board in an exercise called "Envisioning Orchard Road". This should take into account the fading of interest when a similar pedestrianising experiment was done in 1989. That has been attributed to a lack of engaging organised activities, among other reasons. Negative factors at play now include the lack of ease in strolling down the road and both permanent barriers and temporary obstructions that make it hard to traverse spaces.
Apart from ironing out such kinks, organisers should focus on winning concepts. Thematic offerings have been suggested by observers. Garden party, foodie and busking themes have been tried in London's Regent Street. Fashion, local design, family and heritage are other options to consider. Pop-up booths to showcase new creations could also prove an attraction, especially if their set-up and removal is made simple and economical.
Any consumer culture event to enliven Orchard Road should be unabashedly local, fun and memorable. In pursuit of concepts that have strong tourism appeal, there's a risk of a creeping commodification of offerings. Keeping this premier shopping strip vibrant will call for more than a dash of imagination and boldness.