Businesses at Big Box face low traffic, uncertain future

The sale of Big Box, which is owned by a subsidiary of TT International, will close on June 14. Marketing agent Cushman & Wakefield said the warehouse retail scheme has expired.
The sale of Big Box, which is owned by a subsidiary of TT International, will close on June 14. Marketing agent Cushman & Wakefield said the warehouse retail scheme has expired.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

With the building put up for sale, they are not sure if they can continue operating

With Big Box now put up for sale, those working at the eight-storey building in Jurong East Regional Centre are unsure of their future.

They are worried whether they will be allowed to continue operating after the sale closes on June 14 and what it will mean for the warehouse retail scheme under which they operate.

Owned by a subsidiary of mainboard-listed consumer electronics retailer TT International and opened in 2014, the mall features fashion shops, furniture retailers, supermarkets and restaurants. Cushman & Wakefield, the exclusive marketing agent for the sale, said the warehouse retail scheme has expired.

A food stall owner, who declined to be named, said: "I was not told whether we would be asked to vacate, but my lease expires next month either way. I'm not worried because I can still operate at bazaars and online," she said.

Several businesses complained of low traffic to the mall, a four-minute walk from Jurong East MRT station.

The food stall owner said in her five months of operating at Big Box, she would get about 20 customers on a weekday, and 30 on weekends.

"In the first three months (of operation), I could not cover the rent with the profit," she said.

There were only a handful of customers at the hypermart, which occupies more than half of the first storey, when The Straits Times visited on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Abdul Rahim, 51, a technical supervisor, was at the mall with his wife to visit the 30 temporary stalls set up for the Hari Raya bazaar which will run until June 14.

He said: "You have other attractive places like Westgate and Jem around here, maybe young people prefer going there, while this place is for older people like us."

But at the foodcourt on the third storey, business is good.

Mr David Chia, executive chef of seven halal stalls at the 800-seat foodcourt, which is owned by Big Box, said it sees 80 per cent capacity during peak periods.

He said he is confident the foodcourt will remain after the sale. "As far as I'm concerned, the foodcourt is not dying," he added.

Some say that the building, which is located in Jurong Lake District, is ideal for logistics players, e-commerce fulfilment and warehousing companies.

But International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong said the location of Big Box is not optimal for retail business.

"They have many competitors at Jurong East and there is an oversupply of retail, so it is not good to build more retail at Big Box," he said.

"It also may not be a good location for logistics players, e-commerce and warehousing as the price (of buying the place) is more... as compared to Tuas or Pioneer Road."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2018, with the headline 'Businesses at Big Box face low traffic, uncertain future'. Print Edition | Subscribe