Why business is poor in downtown malls

Boarded-up shops in the basement of Orchard Central.
Boarded-up shops in the basement of Orchard Central.ST PHOTO: MELISSA HENG

I refer to the story Retail In A Pickle (Life, April 28), which talks about empty spaces in downtown malls. I feel that there are a few reasons for this problem.

High rentals: Most malls are occupied by real estate investment trusts and they need to maintain a certain percentage of returns to shareholders. Hence, rental has to increase.

Competition from e-commerce: It is convenient and goods are usually cheaper than in the malls.

Too many shopping malls have the same tenants: Malls should consider applying certain themes in order to attract shoppers.

Nicholas Fong


Instead of trying to interest tenants to rent these shops, vacant stores can be transformed into community spaces for purposes such as art jamming or rented out at a subsided cost to SMEs and social enterprises.

Jacelyn Chia


In the West where I live, Jem and Westgate, which have almost every shop that I need, are one MRT stop away. They have Kinokuniya, Isetan and Kate Spade, among others. Since these malls opened, I hardly go to Orchard Road anymore.

If you are talking about high-end brands that are not in heartland malls, I will just say that I won't buy Louis Vuitton, Chanel or Miu Miu in Singapore. I will buy the labels when I am in Paris.

My suggestions to draw crowds to a mall are: 1. Have popular tuition centres. Look at United Square. It is an old mall, but every weekend it is packed and there are no empty shops. This is because The Learning Lab, Lorna Whiston and Growing Up Gifted schools are there. Parents hang out at the malls where their children go for tuition. 2. Have an anchor supermarket. 3. Have a good foodcourt. Affordable good food always draws  Singaporeans.

Jean Chan


There are malls in Asia which have attracted tourists with performances by artists. This entertainment schedule is planned months in advance, allowing travellers to work their plans around the schedule and attend the events.

Some of these malls provide tourist-centric services such as free Wi-Fi, power bank rental facilities and free umbrellas.

Malls can also do more to engage customers through social media. Besides adding flavour to the shopping experience, it provides customers with a way to interact with the retailers. Having pop-up outlets and restaurants will also minimise unused space in the mall as these areas can be leased out within a limited time frame at a premium.

Raphael Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'Why business is poor in downtown malls'. Print Edition | Subscribe