Funan springs back to life

On top of the usual retail and F&B offerings, the revamped complex offers experience-based activities such as rock-climbing and biking

The new Funan mall welcomed its first customers yesterday, unveiling its completed look after a $560 million renovation that took three years.

The former IT mall, which closed in mid-2016 for redevelopment, has swopped 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 ride through the mall via a 200m indoor cycling path that runs in and around the complex or try 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 first Demo Store Beauty Lab in the world and British folding bike manufacturer Brompton Junction's South-east Asian flagship store.

At the mall's opening, CapitaLand Singapore managing director of retail Chris Chong said: "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 the opening, CapitaLand earlier this week announced that Funan mall has achieved 95 per cent committed occupancy for its retail space. It added that more than 60 per cent of the more than 190 brands housed in the complex 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 shopping centres can no longer just aim to push products, but instead, have to adapt to the changing needs and buying behaviour of savvy consumers.

For example, experience-based activities such as workshops and indoor rock climbing provide shoppers with 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 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 he 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."

Let's talk tech 

Funan is often associated with technology and the revamped mall serves it up in spades.

Shoppers can use the mall's smart directories not only to browse and map their way to a store, but also to get product recommendations.

By the end of this year, shoppers can make use of a 24-hour click-and-collect drive-through service. They need only to get a PIN code on their phones and a robotic arm will retrieve their items.

Some brands have also stepped up the tech offerings in their stores.

Courts' first Internet of Things store lets home owners experience what their dream smart home would look like.

It houses Google's first experience zone in South-east Asia, where shoppers can try the newly launched Nest Hub and other Google products as well as a Samsung smart home fitted with a smart television, refrigerator and washing machine.

At KOPItech, Kopitiam's high-tech foodcourt, patrons can expect to spend less time queueing as they do not have to order at separate food and drinks stalls. Instead, ordering can be done through one of the 17 self-service kiosks or through a new Facebook messaging app.

In addition, those working in Funan's twin office blocks will not need to tap a card to get in, but can instead enter the buildings via facial recognition turnstiles.

Hunt for crafts and knick-knacks

If you want to support big dreams, go shop at We The People, a brick-and-mortar crowdfunding retail chain.

Founded in 2016, it retails unique creations made possible with global crowdfunding.

You will find innovative products spanning technology gadgets to homeware, such as invisible laptop stands, instant cup coolers and original board games.

Funan marks the store's fifth outlet in Singapore.

For a spot of sustainable shopping, check out The Green Collective. The multi-brand concept store houses 35 home-grown eco brands retailing sustainable and socially conscious products.

It started out as a pop-up before opening its first brick-and-mortar store last year in Katong shopping mall Kinex. Funan is its second space.

The collective champions zero waste - in the store, you will find brands like Bamboo Straws Worldwide, as well as upcycled fashion, organic beauty brands and FairTrade food.

In addition, the store will host regular workshops, ranging from making soaps and DIY lip balm to composting, upcycling and even plant-swop events.

Fourth-generation Swiss sewing machine brand Bernina makes an appearance too, with its flagship store at Funan.

The four-in-one lifestyle concept welcomes crafters and shoppers alike, with themed sewing workshops, gift personalisation services and machine rental services.

The store will also carry Bernina's latest sewing machine models and fabrics for rental.

For better health and fitness 

Visitors can get active at Funan.

Strap on a harness and scale one of the indoor rock climbing walls at Climb Central for a different view of the mall. There are 46 lanes in all, with the tallest wall at 15m. A first-timer adult day pass costs $32.

Or gather your friends for a game at the futsal court on level 7. Operated by The Ark, it caters to 10 players each time for five-a-side matches. Prices start at $120 an hour.

Home-grown fitness brand True Group's flagship TFX fitness club takes up two levels at Funan. It has a pool where you can chill after a workout.

British folding bike brand Brompton debuts its South-east Asia flagship store, Brompton Junction, which is designed to look like a bicycle workshop.

The brand is commemorating its launch in Singapore with a special edition Lion City bike decked out in a unique two-tone gold and red lacquer and a customisable Merlion ID plate. Prices for the Lion City bike start at $3,500.

Get your local fashion fix 

More than half of Funan's retail offerings are made up of homegrown brands.

You can find former online-only stores in new brick-and-mortar boutiques, such as All Would Envy, Fashmob and Love, Bonito - in their largest outlet here.

Also worth a browse for its clean-cut, chic wardrobe staples is womenswear label The Form, started by civil servant-turnedfashion designer Wu Kailing.

The 28-year-old founded her brand last year with the aim of reducing unnecessary fast-fashion waste in favour of high quality, timeless pieces customers would want to reach for time and again.

In The Form's first offline store, shoppers can find separates and dresses with unexpected details and silhouettes. Prices range from $79 to $249.

The men, too, can get some shopping done, at home-grown menswear specialist The Shirt Bar.

Pick up tailored shirts in prints ranging from work-appropriate checks to bold florals, available in a variety of fabrics and finishes. The shirts go from $99 to $149.

The store also retails dress pants (from $99), accessories such as ties and collar pins, and even shoes.

Correction note: An earlier version of the story said handmade accessories from local label Olive Ankara are sold at the Green Collective. The collective has since clarified that the label is no longer available at its store.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'Funan springs back to life'. Print Edition | Subscribe