Plans for rejuvenating Orchard Road were unveiled last week by government agencies after a six-month study and consultations with stakeholders. There are suggestions to give four zones along the 2.4km stretch more character: from emphasising arts and artisanal choices in Tanglin and positioning Somerset as a youth hub, to enhancing overground links at the Orchard-Paterson road junction and rejuvenating Istana Park with themed gardens. These are achievable ideas.
But planners need to also address a core issue with Orchard Road: retail mix. Higher rentals over the years have meant that the tenant mix has become increasingly repetitive along this premier shopping stretch, as bigger brands take over prime space and many of them open multiple branches. This sameness does not help draw foot traffic or encourage spending, as reflected in the falling tourist shopping dollar. Planners must also account for changing habits as savvy Singaporeans shop online and spend especially when they go overseas. If Orchard Road is to be refreshed in the long term, landlords need to look hard at their curation of tenants and the pursuit of rental returns at the expense of retail variety and interest.