SINGAPORE: Apple fans who have been looking forward to the tech giant's first brick-and-mortar store in Singapore may have to wait a while longer, with the completion date of construction work at its expected location along Orchard Road apparently pushed back.
According to an information board put up outside the construction site at Knightsbridge mall, the latest expected completion date of Jan 30, 2017 - already a three-month postponement from the previous date of Oct 31, 2016 - was covered up, with no new date provided.
The information board with details on the expected completion date seen outside the construction site at Knightsbridge mall on Dec 9, 2016. (Photo: Tang See Kit)
A check with workers and security guards at the site noted that the ongoing construction work is unlikely to wrap up by next month. One construction worker told Channel NewsAsia that delays were unavoidable after the site was issued with a three-week stop-work order in late October.
In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) confirmed that it did issue a full stop-work order to the work site's contractor on Oct 24, citing "unsafe conditions relating to work at height, traffic management, scaffolding, electrical installation and lifting operations that were observed during an inspection at the worksite". A separate check on MOM's website showed that the stop-work order was issued against Legend (Singapore) Interiors Pte Ltd.
MOM said the order has since been lifted, and when this reporter visited the site on Dec 9 and Dec 13, workers could be seen working on the sides of a three-storey-high facade covered up by grey-coloured boards.
(Photo: Tang See Kit)
Apple declined to comment when contacted by Channel NewsAsia. It also declined to reveal an official opening date for the store or provide an update for the number of employees it is hiring locally.
Its senior vice president of retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts, confirmed last November that the tech giant had begun hiring staff for its retail store in Singapore.
The store, which is expected to take up four levels at Knightsbridge mall, will be Apple’s first physical retail presence in Singapore, as well as Southeast Asia. Apart from an online store, Apple currently sells its products via authorised premium resellers such as EpiCentre and Nubox in Singapore.
Speculation about the Singapore's first Apple store emerged in October last year, when fitness club Pure Fitness informed its members that it would be shuttering its four-storey gym facility at Knightsbridge mall to make way for a “future Apple store”.
So far, there have been few details about the retail outlet apart from a statement released last November noting that the Apple Store will be powered by solar energy from developer Sunseap Group.
As for the exterior, a previous post by local blog My Apple Singapore wrote that wooden crates bearing the logo of German glassmaker Seele were placed outside the construction site in July. Given that Seele has been providing Apple with the glass panels for its overseas stores, the upcoming store in Singapore could be fitted with a similar glass facade, according to the blog, which began tracking developments at the construction site since last November.
Ongoing construction work seen at the site of Apple's first retail store in Singapore at Knightsbridge mall on Dec 9, 2016. (Photo: Tang See Kit)
Construction work for the store commenced in May this year, according to the information board, and was initially expected to be completed by Oct 31.
SUCH DELAYS "NOT UNCOMMON"
However, industry observers said that such delays are not uncommon given the work required to fit out a huge space and Apple’s emphasis on customer experience in its flagship stores.
“For a huge flagship store occupying 30,000 sqft of prime space along Orchard Road, some degree of fit-out delay is not uncommon given the complexity of the design and layout,” said Cushman & Wakefield's research director Christine Li.
“Plus, we are talking about the world's most valuable brand - a brand that pays a lot of attention to detail and strives to be perfect. So, I think they want to make sure they don't rush into things and that everything is in order,” she added.
Industry observers say retailers who are staying put at Knightsbridge mall, such as Abercrombie & Fitch, may get a boost from the extra shoppers that the Apple Store will bring in. (Photo: Tang See Kit)
While it remains unclear when the Apple Store will officially open its doors, Ms Li said that it will be a boost for Singapore’s prime shopping belt, as well as neighbouring stores such as casual wear chain Abercrombie & Fitch, when it does.
“It will be good news given that so far we've been hearing so much negative news such as store closures at Orchard Road. Crowds attracted to the Apple Store will also benefit surrounding stores,” she explained.
Ms Li cited the example of Japanese retail brand Uniqlo, which launched a sprawling flagship store at Orchard Central in September. “Definitely, we saw more shoppers at the new flagship store that helped auxiliary stores like the F&B outlets nearby as there will usually be some spillover effect from the high traffic.”
Follow See Kit on Twitter @SeeKitCNA