Sunday, August 16, 2009

More Lights Up At Iluma

Source : The Business Times, August 15, 2009

New Bugis mall is 90% leased and is seeing more shoppers.

ILUMA may not have opened its doors with a bang, but it has been working to fill space and draw crowds since. The new mall in Victoria Street is now 90 per cent occupied and more shoppers are making their way there, says its management.

Traffic has 'definitely improved' in the past few months, says Han Minli, business development director at Jack Investment, which owns and manages Iluma.

Iluma entered the mall scene in March as Filmgarde Cineplex began operations. Retailers gradually opened for business in the following months. But what seemed to stand out in the mall's early days was empty space and a lack of crowds, going by reports.

Jack Investment is counting on the situation to improve as more tenants strut their stuff. 'I think we will really see the surge in (shopper) numbers when the mall is fully ready. That will probably be the end of the year,' says Ms Han.

Importantly, Iluma's anchor tenants have started operations. Wah Lian Amusement Company has invested $12 million in its flagship project Tornado, an entertainment centre comprising a cyber-gaming joint, dance club, arcades and restaurants. And K Box Entertainment Group has launched K Suites, an upmarket version of the popular karaoke chain K Box.

So far, 10 per cent of space at Iluma - concentrated on the first and second floors - is left.

There was opportunity to fill it but Jack Investment is waiting for the 'right' tenants to come, Ms Han says. Rents at the mall range from the 'high-tens' to 'forty-ish' dollars per square feet.

The mall is looking for unique retailers - many of those already in business are start-ups and may have made their first foray into a commercial shopping centre, she adds. 'We are being a little bit more experimental.'

Besides having more tenants, the completion of a link bridge from Bugis Junction at the end of the year may drive more shoppers to Iluma, says Ms Han. There will also be retail space on the 53-metre bridge, with a net rentable area of around 3,800 sq ft.

Around 60 per cent of the space has been taken up by retailers such as comic and accessory shops, and rents there range from the mid-$20s to around $50 psf.

Singapore's retail scene has become more interesting of late with the entrance of more new malls. Besides Iluma, Orchard Central and Ion Orchard have opened, even as the economy contracts and visitor numbers fall.

Iluma is taking the competition in its stride, explains Ms Han. 'The key opportunity for us is that we are not in a very densely populated shopping belt with a lot of new competition. So that allows us to create our own niche.'

She also notes that the Bugis area has a 'sizeable' population of students, working executives and visitors to nearby museums.

Iluma has a crystal mesh media facade touted as one of the world's biggest permanent media facades. It can be used as a canvas for advertisements or for media artists to exhibit their works. The mall will be showcasing the facade's technical capabilities at a lighting preview today.

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