Thursday, September 18, 2008

Far East Mall Banks On F&B

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 18, 2008

Upcoming Orchard Central to dedicate about 35% of retail space, or 4 storeys, to eateries

WHEN it comes to sating retail appetites, food and beverage (F&B) is playing a bigger part in drawing shoppers to malls here.

That is why Far East Organization's upcoming project in Somerset Road has dedicated four storeys, or close to 35 per cent of net lettable retail space, to eateries.

An artist's impression of The Med, Orchard Central's second basement, the only floor to feature an entirely Mediterranean theme. More than half of the basement will be given over to F&B. -- PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: FAR EAST ORGANIZATION

This concentration of food outlets at Orchard Central will be one of the highest in a Far East Organization mall.

Its Central at Clarke Quay also has about 35 per cent of lettable area dedicated to F&B outlets.

Ms Susan Leng, Far East's deputy director of retail management, told The Straits Times: 'For Singaporeans, yes, (the top draw) is food. Usually when we go out, we first ask, 'Where do we eat?' After eating, we will say, 'Okay, let's shop around'.

'Ten years ago, maybe 18 to 20 per cent of a mall was F&B; today, it is at least 25 to 30 per cent.'

It may be a clever strategy, given that the economy is slowing and global financial markets are in turmoil. After all, even when times are bad, people still have to fill their tummies.

That is why Orchard Central yesterday said that more than half of the second basement of its 12-storey mall will be given over to F&B.

Called The Med, the basement will feature an entirely Mediterranean theme, from the pebbles on the floor to the ceiling lamps and wall signs.

The idea is to create an open bazaar feel found in countries like Italy, Greece and Morocco.

Far East has dedicated 70 per cent of the basement's net lettable area of 14,370 sq ft to F&B. Three anchor restaurants will occupy 40 per cent of that space.

The remaining 30 per cent of the basement will comprise fashion and accessories outlets and household and decor shops, all selling 'Mediterranean themed' items like spices and carpets.

It will be Orchard Central's only themed floor.

'Our strategy is to get unique brands (for the restaurants), not to have chain-store concepts,' said Ms Leng. This includes bringing in new eateries and working with well-known restaurateurs to devise Mediterranean-themed ones.

'The incremental cost may not be that significant,' she added. 'But I think we are able to give a lot more value-added to our retailers.'

This includes pre-fitting shop units with Mediterranean-themed infrastructure, which Ms Leng said will save fit-out costs for all tenants on that floor.

Ms Leng said Orchard Central plans to have more than 80 per cent of leases for The Med signed by the end of November.

She also rejected suggestions that the fresh financial turmoil in the United States will impact the take-up rate.

'Retailers are in for the long haul. In fact, they may see this as an opportunity to bargain for a better rate,' said Ms Leng.

She added that Orchard Central is on schedule to start trading next April, while The Med should be running by June.

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