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Orchard Road malls seek new ways to draw the crowds

Besides renovating the mall and changing the tenant mix, landlords are also throwing in free performances in a bid to attract the crowds.

SINGAPORE: As Singapore retailers face pressure from the slowing economy, Orchard Road malls are looking for new ways to draw the crowds.

Besides renovating the mall and changing the tenant mix, landlords are also throwing in free performances in a bid to attract the crowds.

For example, over the weekend, shoppers at ION Orchard witnessed a series of aerial circus acts. The performances marked the completion of ION Orchard's recent revamp, which saw a refreshed facade and new tenants such as Tiffany & Co and French-Italian luxury lifestyle brand Moncler.

Orchard Turn Developments, which manages ION Orchard, said it is important to enhance the shopping experience.

Said Mr Chris Chong, chief executive of Orchard Turn Developments: "Increasingly, retail is not just about shopping but also about entertainment, bringing new novel experiences. Last year, we did a butterfly dome featuring live butterflies from the Crysalis. This year, we will bring an exciting new experience with the aerial sphere. We hope shoppers will enjoy this new experience and as a result also enjoy shopping with us."

Orchard Road retailers have been hit by a slowing local economy and weak visitor arrivals in the past two years. Analysts estimate that Orchard Road rents fell last year and could drop by another 3-5 per cent this year.

Besides ION Orchard, other malls being refurbished include Centrepoint and Wisma Atria.

IMPROVE OVERALL EXPERIENCE: JLL

Property consultancy JLL said that not all Orchard Road malls require a complete physical overhaul. But landlords and retailers must work together to improve the overall retail experience, amid competition from online retailers and suburban malls.

Ms Regina Lim, national director of advisory and research at JLL, commented: "I don't think it has to be a total refreshment or refurbishment; it's about being more aware of giving shopping a reason to come to your shop or to your mall.

"So even if the mall isn't getting a facelift, I think retailers and landlords need to think about giving some reason for families to come down and visit rather than just buy it online.

“In this day and age where there is quite a bit of supply along Orchard Road, you really need to proactively think about how you want to make your mall a little bit different from the rest and engage the public to come down to the mall to shop. Because people really want to integrate shopping online and offline and going to the mall has to come with some kind of experiential performance and events," Ms Lim added.