Liang Court: New owners mean new worries for shop tenants

When The New Paper visited Liang Court last week, it was deserted except for some shoppers at the basement and first level. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Several tenants said they had heard the mall would be undergoing major renovations soon and they would have to move out. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - As Liang Court's popularity dipped in recent years, tailor Quek Chwee Chye, 61, has seen his business suffer as well.

But now Mr Quek, who has been in the River Valley Road mall since 1994, and other tenants have a new worry.

The mixed-use complex, which was opened more than three decades ago, has new owners. With redevelopment expected to follow, many tenants fear they may have to move out, perhaps for good.

In March, The Business Times (BT) reported CapitaLand and City Developments (CDL) were planning to buy Liang Court for $400 million.

CapitaLand and CDL told The New Paper on Saturday (June 1) that their acquisition of Liang Court was completed the day before.

Their statement said: "The new owners' immediate focus is the daily operations of the mall."

They did not address TNP's queries on their plans for Liang Court and its tenants, but BT quoted them on Saturday as saying: "As part of their active asset management strategy, the joint-venture partners will continually explore ways to enhance the value of the asset."

When TNP visited Liang Court last Wednesday, there were a handful of shoppers at the basement and first level. The upper levels were deserted.

As TNP spoke to 18 of the 80-plus tenants, there was an air of uncertainty. Several said they had heard the mall would be undergoing major renovations soon and they would have to move out.

More than 10 said they were unsure when they had to leave and were waiting to receive notice from the management.

Mr Quek said he was more worried about losing customers than finding a new location.

He said: "Some of my regular customers may not follow me to my new location as it may be inconvenient."

Mr Bryan Lai, 32, the pastry chef at Ma Maison restaurant, which has been at Liang Court for three years, said: "I understand the need for relocation and my entire team will go together. I hope the customers will follow us. Business here has been quite stagnant."

Several shops had relocation notices pasted on entrances informing customers of their move to Great World City.

The Kinokuniya outlet at Liang Court closed in April as its lease was up and human traffic had declined.

Mr Kenny Chan, senior store and merchandising director of Books Kinokuniya (Pacific Asia Region), told The Straits Times in April: "We need to consolidate our resources... so management decided that since the lease is up, it is timely and convenient to close."

Asked about possible reasons for Liang Court's decline, Professor Regina Yeo said: "Liang Court mainly faces competition from nearby shopping malls in the central area such as Plaza Singapura and 313@Somerset, which have a better retail mix and wider dining options."

The adjunct senior lecturer of marketing at the National University of Singapore's Business School said the loss of Kinokuniya, a key tenant, could have been another factor for people to not visit the mall.

The first level, which accounts for most of the foot traffic, is mainly occupied by large chains such as Starbucks, Subway and Uniqlo.

Sales staff at Uniqlo and a barista at Starbucks said the shops would be closing at the end of the year.

Customer service staff at Japanese supermarket Meidi-Ya, which occupies a large area in the basement, were unsure of its future but said operations would continue till December.

Music teacher Anne Clarke, 52, said: "I used to go to Liang Court all the time because they had the best Japanese products.

"But I've stopped going because I feel the quality of Japanese products has dropped and other malls have Japanese stores that are more convenient to go to."

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