End of the road for retail icons: Liang Court, Sasa, Isetan Westgate shut for good

Customers reminisce as they visit for the last time popular haunts they've grown up with

ST PHOTOS: TIMOTHY DAVID, MARCELLIN LOPEZ

Liang Court - once a Clarke Quay institution bustling and full of life - was a ghost town when The Straits Times visited yesterday on the mall's last day of operations.

More than 90 per cent of shops there were fully shuttered. A handful were still open, although some signboards were already torn down and workers went about dismantling shelves and moving items out in cardboard boxes.

It was a sad sight for student Quek Liting, 24, who told ST that she had spent a good part of her teenage years hanging out at Liang Court. She was there "for the last time" yesterday afternoon, to walk around the mall and take some photographs.

"So many memories from my teenage years were made here. I used to hang out with friends and do some studying at Starbucks. I'll miss the mall a lot," Miss Quek said.

The mall is set to be "reinvented" as an integrated development with two residential towers, a new hotel and new commercial spaces. But Miss Quek is not sure she will visit Liang Court often after the site is repurposed, as much of its attraction for her came from its "homely and chill" vibe.

"Maybe it's just me being nostalgic, but there are some things that I wish wouldn't change," she said.

Liang Court was also a popular haunt for the Japanese community.

Mrs Yuko Nanahara, 48, said the mall had been where she would meet her friends for ramen once a week, and also where she would regularly bring her husband's suits to be tailored and altered.

"My friends and I like this mall very much, and it has been the location of our gatherings for many years. We will have to find somewhere else to go," she said.

Meanwhile, a hawker in his 40s, who wanted to be known as Mr Lim, said that business at the Liang Court foodcourt had been declining steadily for the last few years and it was "time to move on".

"At some point, we realised we could not keep paying our bills if we kept selling only a few dishes each day," Mr Lim said, as he packed up a wok and some bowls into a makeshift cardboard box.

"We have been overtaken by hawkers in malls which are better renovated and with better footfall. Now it's time for me to move elsewhere so we can survive."

  • Recent changes to Singapore's retail scene

  • KATONG i12

    • The mall was closed temporarily from March 1 this year for renovations.

    • It will reopen in 2021, after an overhaul that will see its amenities being rejuvenated.

    • The development is also likely to get a boost in connectivity, once the Thomson-East Coast Line is competed, linking the area to other parts of Singapore by MRT.

  • GIANT SUPERMARKET AT PARKWAY PARADE

    • The supermarket located on the fifth floor of the shopping complex was closed on Feb 29, to the shock of many consumers used to doing their grocery shopping there.

    • Prior to its closure, the supermarket's shelves were cleaned out, partially due to panic buying as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

    • Nearby supermarkets include Cold Storage at Parkway Parade shopping centre, and FairPrice Finest at Marine Parade Central.

Liang Court was not the only retail establishment that closed its doors yesterday. Also shuttering its stores for good was beauty retail chain Sasa, which announced last December that it would close all 22 stores in Singapore after six consecutive years of losses.

There were four to five customers at the Wisma Atria Sasa branch when ST visited the outlet yesterday evening, but the shelves were empty.

Miss Sarah Loke, 28, said she was back yesterday evening for the first time in what she described as "years" to "say goodbye".

She said walking into a Sasa store brought back fond memories of she and her friends picking up inexpensive supplies of drugstore make-up brands for their cosplay looks. "Back then, we were only teenagers and even Maybelline and Silkygirl were a little pricey," she recalled.

Also closing permanently yesterday was Isetan at Jurong's Westgate mall, a casualty of stiff competition in the retail scene.

The department store occupied a large section of two basement floors. Its supermarket provided variety and Japanese products that might not have been available at the nearby FairPrice, some shoppers said.

Others, who were stocking up on produce, also feared that Isetan's closure would greatly increase the number of shoppers at other supermarkets, making grocery runs - especially during the Covid-19 outbreak - much more of a hassle.

Housewife Tan Su-lyn, 51, said that Isetan was her preferred store to shop at, particularly for Japanese fruits and condiments.

"I thought it was a great addition to Jurong East, and it's a waste that it is closing so soon."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2020, with the headline End of the road for retail icons: Liang Court, Sasa, Isetan Westgate shut for good. Subscribe