Buy-in from landlords and retailers crucial: Observers

These two groups need to work closely to capitalise on the good proposals, they say

The ideas proposed by government agencies to transform Orchard Road is a good start, but they will come to nought without the buy-in from landlords and retailers, said stakeholders and observers.

Speaking to the media at yesterday's announcement, Orchard Road Business Association chairman Mark Shaw said the ideas are "pretty good", but "we would have preferred to see some bolder moves", like introducing more surface-level pedestrian crossings.

Some proposals involving interaction between owners of several building and malls may also be difficult to implement, he said. "Getting cooperation between the landlords and mall owners, the stakeholders on the street, that is going to be the biggest challenge."

Cushman & Wakefield's senior director and head of research Christine Li said the plans help to address connectivity issues and has the potential to bring extra footfall, but are not a "game changer".

She added: "It still does not address the issue of our undifferen-tiated retail offerings in Orchard Road. Landlords and retailers need to work closely to capitalise on the enhanced infrastructural changes."

Ms Esther Ho, director of Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Business Management, said that having themes in the sub-precincts will help developers focus more on aligning their malls with the concept and help avoid the "cookie-cutter situation, where a shopper is confronted with the same brands or same merchandise assortment in different parts of Orchard Road".

Australian urban planning consultancy Cistri, which conducted a $1.3 million study on Orchard Road last year and made recommendations for the shopping belt's long-term development, said that the proposals by the authorities build on the precinct's strengths.

Mr Jack Backen, director of property economics and research at the firm, said that "compared to the other great streets of the world, Orchard Road is very long with a particularly large retail component".

Broadening its focus beyond shopping would provide more reasons to visit, he said.

Speaking at the launch of Design Orchard, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said: "There has to be a balance between master planning Orchard Road and for (the road) to have sufficient space for ground-up initiatives so that it can grow organically and develop its own character".

Defining the success of Orchard Road's evolution relies on two factors: It needs to continue to be a place where Singaporeans from all walks of life build memories, as well as one where new lifestyle and retail concepts and experiences are created, he added.

Mr Ryota Yamazaki, senior manager at Deloitte Consulting Southeast Asia, said transforming Orchard Road involves attracting more visitors and increasing consumer spend at its shops and malls.

The proposals appear skewed towards attracting shoppers, while the key to increasing retail sales is to revamp the tenant mix and merchandising strategy across the different shopping malls, he said.

National University of Singapore's Institute of Real Estate Studies director Sing Tien Foo suggested that creating differentiated precincts could ease the overcrowding which occurs in the vicinity of Orchard MRT station.

Dr Stefanie Chua, 29, who was visiting the exhibition on the proposed plans, said she likes the idea of having more green spaces and outdoor activities.

"It would be nice to have more cafes and al fresco areas. Right now, it is too many shops, too much of the same thing," she added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2019, with the headline Buy-in from landlords and retailers crucial: Observers. Subscribe