The Orchard Road shopping belt has not lost its lustre despite the impending exit of OG Orchard Point, experts have said.
While OG will join other department stores that have left Singapore's premier shopping destination in recent years - such as Robinsons, John Little and Metro - the experts said the exits are part of an ongoing evolution of Orchard Road into a lifestyle destination, with speciality stores filling the spaces left by retail stalwarts.
Speciality stores typically have depth in a specialised trade, whereas department stores offer breadth. They include the likes of home appliance giant Courts, whose six-storey flagship replaced Robinsons at The Heeren last year, while French sporting goods brand Decathlon replaced Metro at The Centrepoint in 2020.
OG Orchard Point, which moves out in October, will be replaced by an as-yet-unnamed mega-mart concept store by a local grocery and fresh food business. The experiential space will have elements such as live seafood, dining and merchandise.
This shift towards speciality stores reflects the area's move towards tailored offerings for targeted segments of shoppers, said Adjunct Associate Professor Lynda Wee from the marketing division at Nanyang Business School.
"We are creating clear precincts to programme offerings that are more targeted at shoppers... This is in line with the new image of the Somerset vicinity as a youthful, energetic, entertainment spot," she said, likening it to Tokyo's Shibuya district, where the young gather.
The changes are also part of a broader Orchard Road revamp announced by government agencies in 2019, with Somerset for youth and entertainment, while Dhoby Ghaut will be a greenery-filled zone with family-friendly attractions.
The centre of Orchard Road will remain the retail core with luxury and flagship stores, while Tanglin will be a mixed-use neighbourhood with arts and artisanal choices.
The wheels are already in motion. Last week, youth hangout *Scape announced that it will undergo a major revamp and is set to reopen in 2024.
Speciality stores are also more in line with what customers today want, said experts.
"Retailing needs to be kept fresh and rejuvenated often. Consumers of today are looking for an experience rather than just products or services," said Ms Neeta Lachmandas, executive director of the Institute of Service Excellence at Singapore Management University.
"New concepts, pop-up events and stalls add to this experience by providing diversity and interactivity. A continual refresh will make Orchard Road a destination that both locals and tourists want to keep visiting time and again."
It was a sentiment mirrored by Ms Maggie Au, course chair for the diploma in marketing at Temasek Polytechnic's School of Business.
"Orchard Road will have to offer more than just shopping to attract local consumers to return," said Ms Au, adding that many brands have expanded their physical presence with offerings in suburban malls.
"Having flagship stores featuring items that are exclusive at these retail stores and offering vibrant, unique retail and lifestyle experiences and social activities for locals and tourists will be key to bringing the crowds back to town."
Some shoppers The Sunday Times spoke to said Orchard Road still has its appeal, as both a convenient central location for meet-ups with friends and for its sheer variety of stores and lifestyle options.
"Suburban malls are more for if I need to do grocery shopping, or for a quick dinner before heading home," said Ms Venilla Asokan, 24, a social media executive who lives in the west of Singapore. She was visiting Far East Plaza.
"But there is so much food and entertainment in Orchard Road, and I can do so many things, whether it is shopping, karaoke, a gym session or just sitting around to people-watch."
A 48-year-old housewife shopping at Takashimaya who wanted to be known as Ms Leong said: "I always thought that as I grew older, I would shop more at heartland malls instead of Orchard... but I still prefer coming here.
"It is not just because of the shopping variety, but also the food - there is a much better selection here than at heartland malls."
Source: The Straits Times