New-look Suntec City starts drawing crowds

The basement of Suntec City Mall near the Fountain of Wealth was packed on Sunday. Tenants say consumer traffic has improved since the section reopened last year.
The basement of Suntec City Mall near the Fountain of Wealth was packed on Sunday. Tenants say consumer traffic has improved since the section reopened last year.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Sales up at reopened sections; $410m makeover in final phase

Business has picked up for several restaurants and shops at Suntec City, as its $410 million makeover enters the final phase of a 21/2 year revamp.

Sales for eight eateries and stores in the mall's new West Atrium and near the Fountain of Wealth have risen by about 10 per cent to 20 per cent in the first half of the year.

Among them are mid-range Western restaurants Peperoni Pizzeria and L'Entrecote, and Muthu's Curry, an old-timer at the mall since 2006.

Said Muthu's Curry's director of operations, Mr Srinivasan Ayyakkannu, 36: "We suffered a massive drop in sales of about 35 per cent during the six-month renovation period from end 2012 to May last year. But our customers have certainly increased now.

"Before the renovations, our 120-seater restaurant would be only one quarter full during dinner time on weekdays. Now, we have 160 seats which are at least three quarters occupied."

When The Straits Times visited the mall last weekend, queues of about 10 people were spotted at restaurants such as Din Tai Fung and Ramen Dining Keisuke Tokyo in the West Atrium. There were also long queues at the eateries near the Fountain of Wealth. The walkways in both areas were crowded with families and young people.

Tenants in the area estimated that the mall's foot fall has risen by about 20 per cent this year compared to last year.

Suntec City Mall and its convention centre have been undergoing renovations in three phases since June 2012.

The West Atrium, which opened in June last year, fell under Phase 1. It features F&B outlets and high street fashion brands like H&M and Uniqlo.

Phase 2 in the East Atrium, which opened two months ago and focuses on entertainment, includes a karaoke outlet, an indoor playground and Toys 'R' Us. A Golden Village multiplex with 11 screens will open there in November.

The final stage of the revamp is slated for completion by the end of this year. While the mall has yet to announce the line-up of tenants for this phase, most of the shops will be flagship stores, said Ms Susan Sim, deputy chief executive of Suntec Reit, which owns Suntec City Mall. They will include brands that are new to the Singapore market.

Despite the larger crowd, however, some businesses did not make it.

Two high-end restaurants, Oushin Steakhouse by the Akashi Group and Le by the Paradise Group, both located in the West Atrium, closed in April and July, respectively.

One reason for their closures could be the inability to attract their target clientele as they were located among mid-range restaurants and shops, said retail expert Samuel Tan, course manager for retail management at Temasek Polytechnic.

Stores near the middle of the mall between Office Towers 1 and 2, which has been hoarded up for the last phase of the revamp since February, are also not getting the foot fall or sales they expected.

Adore Cosmetics said foot traffic to its store has fallen by up to 50 per cent since the renovation started.

On tenants' request for more advertising and promotion (A&P) events, Suntec Reit's Ms Sim said that the management's A&P efforts have been strategically focused based on tenant mix so far.

Meanwhile, some retailers are doing their own promotions. Said The Travel Store marketing manager Embre Kew: "Our store has been doing okay so far, but we plan to come up with our own marketing activities and collaborate with other tenants related to attractions and travel by the end of this year."

Since the completion of the first two phases of upgrading, Suntec City Mall has had a committed occupancy rate of 97.6 per cent, with about 220 tenants. The number will go up to about 300 when the mall is fully open by early next year.

cherylw@sph.com.sg