Closure of Funan DigitaLife Mall a 'further setback for Singapore's tech haven image', say analysts

Funan DigitaLife Mall will close in the third quarter of next year for three years of redevelopment. Online shopping is one of the factors that contributed to a fall in business at the computer and electronics mall.
Funan DigitaLife Mall will close in the third quarter of next year for three years of redevelopment. Online shopping is one of the factors that contributed to a fall in business at the computer and electronics mall. PHOTO: CAPITALAND

Funan DigitaLife Mall is closing down next year for redevelopment,while Raffles Hotel gets a new owner after a buyout by AccorHotels. The Straits Times looks at some reactions to the two events.

Consumers are lamenting the impending closure of computer and electronics mall Funan DigitaLife Mall, saying it is the only credible alternative to Sim Lim Square for tech purchases under one roof.

Finance administrator Josephine Lim, 49, said: "I don't think I will go to Sim Lim Square. I'm not that tech-savvy and I'm worried about being conned."

Mr Koh Wei Ming, 33, who frequents Funan to buy the latest gadgets, will miss the place for its convenience. "Funan has always catered to a wider group of consumers, like my parents, who are not tech-savvy," said the civil servant.

The 30-year-old mall will close in the third quarter of next year for three years of redevelopment.

 
 

Meanwhile, Sim Lim Square has been mired in cheating controversies and tourists have been told to be careful at the mall or avoid going altogether.

  • 30-year history

  • 1985

    The mall started as Funan Centre, a general shopping centre. It was later converted into a "computer mart" by developer Pidemco Land, which planned to develop and promote its commercial properties along specific themes.

    Among its earliest tenants were Roxy Records and Dada Records, drawing music aficionados who wanted the latest records, cassettes and CDs.

    1994

    Challenger opened its flagship store at Funan, and has since been an anchor tenant.

    1997

    Funan Centre was renamed Funan The IT Mall.

    2005

    After some minor renovations, it was given the name Funan DigitaLife Mall.

Analysts said the two events are a double whammy for Singapore's reputation as a tech shopping haven among tourists.

"Singapore's standing next to Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan - all of which have renowned information technology malls - will take a back seat," said Mr Nicholas Mak, executive director of property consultant firm SLP International.

Mr Colin Tan, director of research and consultancy at Suntec Real Estate Consultants, said: "Having a lot of IT retailers under one roof makes for easier comparison for tourists. Singapore's tourism has more to lose than local consumers, who can always go online."

Online shopping has been one of the factors that contributed to a fall in business at Funan. Many computer shops in Funan, including South Asia Computer and camera shop John 3:16 Photo Supplies, have closed down in the past three years.

Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon from the National University of Singapore Business School said some shops have become mere "showrooms" for their online competitors, including United States- based Amazon as well as locally based Lazada and Qoo10 - all of which sell tech gadgets. "Consumers go to shops to feel and try the products, but buy them online."

IT consultant and avid online shopper Nigel Tan, 28, who relies on online reviews, said: "Cheaper offers from Web stores overseas are worth the risk."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2015, with the headline ''Further setback for S'pore's tech haven image''. Print Edition | Subscribe