Tag Archives: Singapore Retail

OUE plans to invest in 2 retail malls in CBD

Developer Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE) is set to invest in excess of S$140 million on two retail mall projects in the central business district.

Among the plans, OUE will be developing a five-storey retail mall at the existing DBS Building at Shenton Way, according to a source close to the matter.

Built in 1975, DBS Building at Shenton Way will soon be home to a new shopping mall, spanning some 170,000 square feet.

According to a source familiar with the plans, OUE is expected to spend over S$100 million to build the new mall.

It is slated to open in mid-2014, and the mall will offer retail and F&B options as well as a supermarket.

Analysts said a retail development will support an increasing residential population in the downtown area.

Donald Han, special advisor, HSR, said: “On the size of 170,000 (square feet) you would probably expect rents on average of about S$13 – 16 per square foot. Because this is still a new market place, it certainly has more upturn, upside in the next two to three years especially when most of the residential and hotel components are fully in place.”

OUE acquired DBS Building in 2010 for about S$871 million. The podium level will be converted to a shopping mall, but it appears that the developer is keeping the two office towers and it is currently looking for tenants.

Existing anchor tenant DBS Bank is expected to move out of both office towers by year-end.

And it is likely that OUE could see some rental upside when it leases the office space to new tenants.

Apart from the developments along Shenton Way, Channel NewsAsia understands that OUE will also refurbish the shopping mall at One Raffles Place.

Renovation work could start at the end of the year and it is expected to cost over S$40 million.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 30 Jul 2012





Heartland shops are fighting back



Faced with greater pressure from malls and franchises, merchants are joining forces.

Think of that pandan waffle aroma wafting not from the baker downstairs who slices his own loaves, but from a branch of the mass bakery chain that has replaced him. Instead of buying your brooms and light bulbs from the crammed but homely hardware store, you will be picking your wares up from a supermarket.

And the fish soup you’ve been buying from the hawker aunty who has watched you grow up, is replaced by an impersonal foodcourt clone.

In as little as 10 years, the competition from suburban malls sprouting near most MRT stations could make this scenario a reality, warn those who run mom-and-pop trades in the heartlands. Town centres with their mix of distinctive shops and eateries will go “sooner or later”, they fear, replaced by cookie-cutter hubs with ubiquitous commercial franchises.

Indeed, small-time neighbourhood businesses have seen revenues drop by between 30 and 40 per cent over the past five years.

But they will not go quietly.

From engaging event organisers to joining forces for inter-town promotions and tweaking how they operate, more and more heartland shops have been striving to win back customers.


Though competition from suburban malls has been around for more than 10 years, the heat was turned up about five years ago, said Mr Yeo Hiang Meng, President of the Federation of Merchants’ Association.

MRT stations and bus interchanges themselves began hosting shops and eateries. All this meant retail space “increased tremendously”, he said.

“People started having many more choices and it changed spending patterns,” said Mr Yeo, who is also President of the Toa Payoh Town Centre Merchants’ Association. “It became pretty tough for traditional heartland shops, honestly.”

The situation has been exacerbated by other woes.

Unlike shopping centres, where the management controls the retail mix, the variety of shops and services in town centres are up to the individual landlords. As a result, some neighbourhoods can have a high concentration of bubble tea shops or LAN gaming shops.

Merchants also bemoan how small-time trades may be lost as there is a dearth of young blood willing to take over, making a commercial franchise takeover more likely.


In 2009, some merchants’ associations figured they had to band together instead of taking on the fight alone.

Going beyond holding their own periodic promotions, they decided to entice shoppers and diners across several HDB towns by holding joint lucky draws and “10-cent deal” promotions, among other things.

It began with five merchants’ associations participating in the “Heartland Fiesta” that year. Last year, the number grew to eight and this year’s event in July will see seven take part, according to Crystal Horizon. It is the only event management firm here that focuses solely on events to promote heartland businesses – managing director Tan Puay Hoon says what began as just a consultancy grew into a full-fledged business because of the keen interest from merchants.

Said Mr Yeo: “By joining together, we can do more mass marketing through the media. It’s cheaper and the voice is louder.”

Hawkers and shopowners in neighbourhood centres that have participated in the yearly month-long affair said while it has not brought back the crowds of yore, it provides some respite, to the tune of a 15- to 20-per-cent spike in business.

Offbeat ideas have been born too: Hong Kah Shop Proprietors’ Association invited several bloggers to shop and dine there last year to showcase their shops.


Banking on price competitiveness is another strategy, albeit not one that everyone buys.

Mr Steven Koh, chairman of Chong Pang Merchants’ Association, believes heartland shops must offer better deals so that people will forego the convenience of shopping at the malls.

“If not, why would customers not want to just go into the shopping centre and avoid the rain?” he asked.

Mr Yeo, however, feels that a “price war” would only lead to a “die-die situation” as small businesses do not have the crowd to generate enough revenue to settle for even lower profit margins.

More heartland shop-owners are increasingly sold on the idea of “improving the shopping experience” for their customers. That means physical upgrades to create cleaner and more organised environments.

Said President of Serangoon North Merchants’ Association Patrick Ong: “Last time, the awnings were all of different colours, for example. Now, it’s clean and nice and more pleasant, so it’s definitely helped because there is not such a big difference from the environment in shopping centres.”


Other not-so-secret weapons in the neighbourhood merchants’ arsenal: Feng shui talks, mini-concerts and auctions during festivities, all crowd-pleasers which the merchants’ associations say sets them apart from the shopping malls.

Agreeing, housewife Lim Swee Man, 52, said: “It’s like a carnival. There’s a nice atmosphere that you cannot get in shopping centres. That’s why I continue to visit heartland shops.”

The personal touch is another advantage that mom-and-pop retailers can exploit. Mr Yeo said: “The relationship between heartland shops and customers is closer, like friends; so we have to train our people to build the relationship.”

Carving out their own niche is something else neighbourhood shops have tried to do.

Mr Koh hopes to bring back the atmosphere that earned Chong Pang the moniker of “Little Chinatown” in the past.

“We’re quite well-known for our food here, so we have to make sure we maintain standards so people will continue to come specially for our food.”


Do younger folks care whether heartland shops will disappear from our estates in the future?

Ms Eunice Pan, 28, a sales executive, said it would be “a real loss” if the HDB landscape did not have “unique shops that hold memories and add to the flavour of an estate”.

“My fear is that it’s already too late,” she said. “Most town centres already look almost the same and I don’t know what I’m missing out on anymore.”

Mr Tan Wee Meng, 26, a job-seeker, said it is the “soul” of a place that will ultimately make people feel like visiting. “It doesn’t matter if the place is not as clean or a bit messier.

“If there’s a buzz – they pride themselves on food, or place emphasis on the history of the area, for example – I’m sure nobody would want the place to disappear,” he said.

The merchants are struggling to make sure that does not happen.

“We want to do more marketing and promotions but donations from our members can be difficult to come by,” said Mr Ong.

As Mr Yeo put it, “something has to be done, no matter what”.

“Our survival is not in our hands, but at least we do something to give us a fair chance; at least we are not sitting ducks.”

Heartland Fiesta 2012

July 1-29

More than 400 shops in seven neighbourhood centres participating

Source : Today – 2012 Jun 23