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Boom town


Singapore is rapidly coming into its own as a world-class shopping paradise. Dorothy Tan reports

Dorothy Tan,

The shopping mall is one of the icons of the Singaporean lifestyle, and in recent years a string of new malls and a series of facelifts along Orchard Road have breathed new life into the shopping mall concept. These developments, coupled with the introduction of exciting new brands, a rebounding economy, changing retail habits and a voracious appetite for luxury living, have revitalised Singapore’s mall culture. Singapore, with its ambition and potential to become a playground not only for Asia’s super-rich but also for sophisticated international shoppers, is poised to become a key location on the global retail map.

Backed by a strongly rebounding national economy and a rapidly expanding market for high-end goods and services, Singapore’s shopping malls have been overhauled to meet the rising demand for retail indulgence. Shiny, super-sized malls have been constructed in record time, while existing malls have been expanded and refreshed.

In the second half of 2009, three new shopping malls were launched on Orchard Road. Ion Orchard is the ultimate luxury retail destination, with three of its six floors dedicated to high-end fashion and lifestyle. Alongside world-famous designer labels such as Prada, Louis Vuitton and Bottega Veneta, there are less ubiquitous luxury brands such Church’s and Car Shoe. This eclectic but well-curated retail mix creates an interesting dynamism that enhances the shopping experience.

Mandarin Gallery is no less luxurious, with designer stores galore, while 313@Somerset houses mass-market high-street options. Add in Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore’s two new integrated resorts, both boasting colossal retail spaces and top international labels, and it seems that Singapore is definitely living up to its title of shopping paradise.

To fit in along the new, more vibrant Orchard Road, veteran department store Tangs has undergone a massive revamp over the last few years and luxury retail is one of its key focuses. Its higher-end section, Tangs+Co, has been well received. ‘Tangs+Co is looking to bring in more international fashion labels to cater to shoppers’ growing appetite for new luxury,’ explains Laura Chong, marketing and communications executive at Tangs.

Singapore’s luxury retail industry and shopping malls have a symbiotic relationship. Shopping malls need the retail excitement generated by global luxury brands, while their revamped premises in turn provide the right environment for these brands to launch bigger, better flagship stores. However, shopping malls do not owe their transformation entirely to a wealthier population or global business developments. They have been proactively wooing consumers with an enticing mix of attractive visuals and fine selections of interesting tenants. This is the winning combination that is drawing discerning global shoppers back through their doors time and again.

Given the world’s deepening love affair with luxury branding, the mall culture has been given an opulent architectural makeover. Ion Orchard’s light display is an awe-inspiring spectacle while Marina Bay Sand’s majestic silhouette has literally changed the face of Singapore.

Premium luxury mall Paragon has recently completed a $45m facelift. ‘The design is partly prompted by luxury brand retailers looking for more space to expand and build their signature flagship stores and an opportunity to do something different,’ says Linda Kwan, Paragon’s general manager. Undoubtedly, the investment was also made as an attempt to keep up with the intense competition on Orchard Road. With luxury designer stores, popular food and beverage venues and even a well-stocked supermarket, Paragon provides a rounded retail experience for the international shopper.

Inside the malls, efforts have been made to ensure that the ever-expanding plethora of brands remains relevant and desirable. In an era of hyper-consumerism, shopping malls are walking a tightrope to keep luxury goods exclusive yet achievable purchases. This helps to create a culture of aspirational living, where existing customers remain loyal and potential customers are keen to gain brand access, expanding target markets.

The question remains: is this wave of luxury consumerism sustainable? Alvin Cher, whose popular Bagaholicboy blog focuses on designer bags in particular and luxury living in general, is optimistic. ‘As Singaporeans continue to spend more on luxury goods, and with strong tourist arrivals year on year, the luxury market can only go up from here.’

As Singapore settles more comfortably into its status as a first world city, there is a heightened awareness and appreciation of the good life. Marketing executive Angeline Chen suggests that the allure of luxury lies in its pursuit. ‘The fun of luxury shopping is in the thrill of the chase.’ Singapore’s shopping malls are a world-class hunting ground.

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