SINGAPORE - The new Funan mall welcomed its first customers on Friday morning (June 28), unveiling its new look after a $560 million renovation which took three years.
The former IT mall, which closed in mid-2016 for redevelopment, has swapped its geeky image for a swankier lifestyle vibe.
A six-storey steel structure called the Tree Of Life forms the centrepiece of the revamped mall, housing retail pods for brands to showcase their products on a pop-up concept and host workshops.
Visitors can also ride through the mall via a 200m indoor cycling path that runs in and around the complex or try out indoor rock climbing gym Climb Central, which has the civic district's highest climbing facility.
New-to-Singapore brands at the mall include the country's first standalone physical Taobao store, Dyson's world first Demo Store Beauty Lab and Britain's folding bikes manufacturer Brompton Junction's South-east Asia flagship store.
At the opening of the mall, CapitaLand Singapore managing director of retail Chris Chong says: "The reimagined Funan relaunches the mall as a social retail space for discovery, learning and shopping, underpinned by a digital layer of customer experience to enhance satisfaction."
Ahead of its opening, CapitaLand this week announced that Funan has achieved 95 per cent committed occupancy for its retail space. It added that over 60 per cent of the more than 190 brands housed in Funan mall originate from Singapore.
Taking up 25 per cent of Funan's retail space are food and beverage offerings, including ramen eateries Afuri Ramen, Kara-men Ajisen and Tsuta as well as bubble tea stalls such as Gong Cha, LiHo, Milksha and Nayuki Tea.
Experts say malls can no longer just aim to push products but instead, have to adapt to the changing needs and buying behaviour of savvy shoppers.
For example, experience-based activities such as workshops and indoor rock climbing provide shoppers more reasons to extend their stay in the mall, which in turn provides more opportunity for window-shopping and purchases.
Mr Samuel Tan, course manager in retail management at Temasek Polytechnic, says: "Funan is projecting itself as a community place where target customers are there for social reasons as their primary purpose of visit, instead of the traditional malls where shoppers visit the mall for the primary purpose of making purchases. The retailing activities are offered as a secondary purpose to complement the visit."
The challenge, he notes, is the mall's ability to sustain the level of interest among shoppers for them to make return visits.
Mr Mark Wee, executive director of DesignSingapore Council, says designing a unique user experience is essential for malls to capture their customers.
He says: "From the moment a customer steps into the mall and admires its architecture, to the more immersive ways that they can browse and explore the many product and service offerings, to optimised systems that drive efficiency - these are all enabled by innovative design that goes beyond aesthetics to form a truly great customer experience."