Everything's Not Lost...

Singapore’s shopping scene continued to be challenged this year, as a soft economic environment and tough labour market conditions dissuaded people from purchases.

20 Dec 2016

Everythings not lost
Singapore’s shopping scene continued to be challenged this year, as a soft economic environment and tough labour market conditions dissuaded people from purchases.

Up till October 2016, the retail sales index (excluding motor vehicles) posted consecutive year-on-year declines.

Yet, shops are expecting more favourable business conditions in the coming months.

As retailers and landlords gear up for the year –end festivities, CBRE takes a look at some of the bright spots which have developed over the past few months.

Yokoso Japan!...Landlords continue to welcome Japanese retailers ,especially in the food and beverage (F&B) space.

Itadakimasu by Parco (14,000 sq ft), a cluster of seven Japanese restaurants in 100 AM mall in the fourth quarter, while Japan Food Town (20, 075 sq ft), a hall of 16 Japanese food shops, opened in Wisma Atria in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter also saw more character-themed cafes open – including Gudetama Café in Suntec City Mall, while pop-up Pokemon Café returned to Bugis Junction for a second run from Nov 24 to Feb 19, 2017.

There was also the interesting marriage of travel-focused retail with F&B space – in the form of Japan Rail Café, which opened in Tanjong Pagar Centre in the fourth quarter. The café has a counter selling rail passes from five Japan Railway firms, as well as a retail corner with food products and merchandise from JR East; and programmes to promote a monthly featured region.

Lastly, Singaporeans apparently still have a yen for snacks from the country - Hokkaido dessert chain LeTAO, famous for its two-layered cheesecake, opened in Ion Orchard in the fourth quarter, while BAKE Cheese Tart, also from Hokkaido, opened a second outlet in Westgate.

Beyond Face Value...

Japanese skincare brand FANCL, which left the Singapore market in 2014 and returned this year, has been on an expansion spree. It opened in Vivocity in the fourth quarter and is set to open its flagship in 313@somerset on Dec 23.

Vivocity is among the malls where a rising focus on beauty may be observed. Multi-label cosmetics store Maven opened there in the third quarter, and in the same area as FANCL are stores including Chanel, Dior, Crabtree & Evelyn, L’Occitane, and Kiehl’s.

Korean skincare brand Sulwhasoo opened in Ion Orchard in the fourth quarter while Canadian cosmetics brand M.A.C also launched its flagship store there.

Revolving Doors movement....

While Wing Tai Retail has closed its Dorothy Perkins outlet in Bugis Junction – its space is now being taken up by new-to-market Korean fashion label H: Connect which opened in the fourth quarter. However, it is also noted Wing Tai Retail opened another Dorothy Perkins outlet within Tangs in Vivocity.

In Raffles City, Esprit and Mango have closed shop, making way for Muji (with café), Seafolly, and new-to-market Chinese fashion brand Urban Revivo.

Another new-to-market Chinese fashion brand is Hotwind, which took over Uniqlo’s space in 313@somerset in the fourth quarter.

It is no secret that pressure has been on department store operators to refresh and rejuvenate their offerings; this much was evident when Robinsons Group said it will shut down the last John Little store here on Jan 2. Robinsons said the brand will “evolve into a pop-up format, in line with the global trend for retail businesses.”

Still about "Retailtainment"

The Golden Rule Barber Co shares space with twobros lifestyle and gadget store in The Centrepoint. Twobros, which opened there in the fourth quarter, also sells craft beer.

Another lifestyle firm The Carbon Collective is planning an “integrated dining and retail space” for its South Bridge Road shophouse. The company sells watches and furniture and intends to sell art and alcohol as well.

On the sporting goods front, retailer Fit and Fab in North Bridge Road had its first community class with yoga brand Manduka in December. Canadian athletic apparel retailer Lululemon has been doing this for some time.

What can we make of the above trends? It is clear that populating a mall with shops has increasingly become a delicate balancing act between novel concepts and the tried-and-tested.

Much has been made of the fact that consumers are more ready to spend on experiences such as F&B, and the growth of beauty is another facet of that. Where it comes to cosmetics, customers will still want to sample in-store.

In the coming year, we look forward to seeing more innovative ideas by landlords and retailers to integrate the online and offline, and make the best use of space.

The Singapore Post Centre, for example, is set to open in the middle of the year with an O² concept. Amongst other things, this means customers can browse in store but arrange for delivery to their home, while retailers save on storage space. It is such creative adaptations that will, to borrow Steve Job’s line, show people what they want, even before they know what those wants are.

Retail is all about evolution and being in the forefront of trends. As long as one is able to keep up or even better, set the trends; Everything's Not Lost.

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