SINGAPORE - The space formerly occupied by Robinsons on the third level of Raffles City Shopping Centre has now been taken over by online retailer Lazada.
Over the next two weeks, Lazada will be showcasing home furnishings and smart home products at its 10,000 sq ft pop-up store.
It is the latest online retailer to go physical, albeit for a short period of time. This is a move experts say can attract more shoppers to malls and offer more choices to consumers.
Ms Esther Ho, director of Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Business Management, said that shopping malls were badly hit last year, with a few well-known anchor tenants or multi-chain stores - such as Robinsons and Topshop - closing down or moving out.
"The vacated spaces are difficult to be leased out in a short time, especially if retailers are adopting a wait-and-see approach. In the meantime, a pop-up may bring some excitement back to the malls, with consumers visiting other stores while they are there," said Ms Ho.
When asked whether Lazada would be renting the space on a more permanent basis, a Lazada spokesman said the pop-up was a pilot to gauge the response from brands and shoppers.
Since the store opened on April 2, it has "been getting positive feedback from participating brands and the public", he said, without elaborating.
When The Straits Times visited the store last Saturday (April 3), there were about 50 people browsing through items from more than 100 brands, including household brands such as Samsung, Philips and Tefal.
Lazada said the pop-up store also aims to provide an offline space for brands, especially those that do not have a physical store, to showcase their products.
Mr Amos Tan, a senior lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic's School of Business, said that the interface of some e-commerce platforms can make it time-consuming for potential customers to familiarise themselves with a new brand since there are so many of them.
"Whereas in a physical store, even if you don't know the brand, it is right in front of you," he added.
Other e-commerce platforms that have ventured offline include Taobao, which had a store in Funan mall selling furniture and clothes for a full year between September 2019 and September 2020.
Last October, Shopee also set up a pop-up store for six months in Funan, in partnership with Korean beauty brand distributor Virvici.
For bank executive Jeslyn Ho, 50, visiting the Lazada pop-up store made her pine for the shopping experience in a regular department store.
"I prefer being able to see an item and buy it on the spot. Now you have to download an app and key in your mailing address," said Ms Ho, who had never used e-commerce platforms for shopping before.
Others, such as Mr Cheng Chye Boon, 56, welcomed the offline-to-online approach of seeing the items in the store and purchasing them online.
"Seeing products online makes it easier to compare prices, so you have more options. But being able to touch and feel the product is how I make the decision to buy," the aerospace engineer said.