In an effort to combat a fall in shopper numbers and boost its mix of tenants, shopping mall JCube is looking to bring some Japanese and Korean retail flavour to Jurong East.
It will add around 50 stores with a new 10,000 sq ft zone inspired by the popular Harajuku and Hongdae shopping districts found in Tokyo and Seoul, respectively. About 20 shops have been vacated by tenants to make way for the new concept. They will be carved up into smaller units to be rented out.
Called J.Avenue, it will feature a total of about 70 shops selling items like fashion apparel and accessories. It is currently under construction and is slated to be launched in September.
JCube general manager Chew Hock Chye, 51, said: "To keep the shopping experience engaging, the shops in J.Avenue will be constantly refreshed, facilitated by short-term leases of three months to a year that appeal to first-time shop owners and young entrepreneurs."
So far, about two-thirds of the shops in J.Avenue have been taken up. Foot traffic to JCube has dropped by about 7 per cent since the Jem and Westgate malls opened next to Jurong East MRT station last June and December.
It also faces competition from IMM mall in Jurong East Street 21.
JCube pulled in an average of about 1.37 million shoppers a month in 2012 and about 1.27 million last year. It is managed by CapitaMalls Asia which also runs IMM and Westgate. Jem is managed by Lend Lease.
Unlike the three other malls, which have over 200 shops each, JCube is the smallest with 120 shops at the moment. Some JCube tenants estimate that foot traffic to their stores has fallen by up to 40 per cent over the past year.
Mr Mike Chen, 32, owner of SV Guitars, said: "Jem and Westgate are linked directly to the MRT station. Since Singaporean shoppers are generally lazy, they prefer not to have to cross that small road that leads to JCube."
Ms Belinda Yeo, 35, director of stationery and gift shop This & That, said: "Sales have not gone back to what they were before the two new malls opened last year. I make just enough to cover rental and manpower."
At Marble Slab Creamery, sales have been declining year on year by an average of more than 30 per cent over the past two years.
Ms Li Lihui, 32, the master franchisee, said: "Since the growth in foot traffic has not been proportional to retail supply, the influx of shops and eateries has affected business. Our sales were not cannibalised by the new malls. In fact, we actually got some spillover traffic from people who came to check them out."
More people are expected to frequent Jurong East with upcoming developments, including Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Jurong Community Hospital. Another mall, Big Box, will open in the area later this year.
Researcher Emily Lim, 29, supports the growing retail options in the west. "It is like Jurong East is the new Orchard Road," she said. "I do not have to travel all the way to town to do my shopping."