Saturday, November 29, 2008

Recession? New Outlets, Malls Still Opening

Source : The Business Times, November 29, 2008

Retailers remain upbeat and are thinking of new ways to pull in shoppers

THE recession may have induced a round of belt-tightening, but industry players are still investing in new outlets and even opening new malls.

Sports chain Nike, for example, opened its $5 million flagship store in Orchard Road's Wisma Atria yesterday.

The 8,000 sq ft store is Nike's first flagship store in South-east Asia and the first here operated and owned by the brand itself. Till now, Nike stores have been opened with local partners.

NTUC FairPrice is opening another hypermarket, and a third retail mall is coming up in Tampines, which already has Century Square and Tampines Mall.

Nike's country marketing manager here, Mr Glenn Heng, said the sportswear giant had wanted to open a flagship store for some time, but the right location was not available. The opportunity came four months ago when Topshop closed its Wisma Atria outlet. It was too good a chance to pass up, said Mr Heng, who added that, despite the gloomy outlook, 'we are still quite positive'.

The increased interest in sports here, along with Singapore's clinching of the bid to host the first Youth Olympic Games, will only help the brand, he said.

Retailers hoping to sow some seeds for growth during this downturn include the biggest supermarket chain here, FairPrice, which will open its third hypermarket in Jurong Point next month and at least two more outlets next year.

FairPrice managing director Seah Kian Peng said: 'Even in the downturn, our customers will still need essential items for their daily needs.'

Mall owner AsiaMalls, which reopened the refurbished Liang Court this month and will open the Tampines 1 mall in March, remains confident of attracting shopper traffic to its malls. The group's assistant general manager Stephanie Ho said 'tactical promotions' which reward spending and reach out to target shoppers were the way to go.

Tampines 1 has secured 90 per cent of its tenants, including first-time entrants to the suburbs Topshop and Promod.

Orchard Central has signed up 60 per cent of its tenants, while Mandarin Gallery, which is being renovated, has signed up half.

A spokesman for Overseas Union Enterprise, which owns Mandarin Gallery, said: 'Leasing activities are still active as there are smart retailers who see downtimes as opportunities to get good space at viable rents.'

Mall owners who have snagged these retail tenants are working more closely with them to offer promotions and organise mall events to beat the effects of the economic slump. Far East Organization's deputy director of retail management Susan Leng said the yet-to-open Orchard Central will be open till 11pm daily to 'cater to tourists on tight schedules and true-blue shopaholics'.

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