Singapore’s Tourism Board recently announced a multi-pronged plan to revitalize Orchard Road. The highlight of the plans is the proposed enhancement of connections between the open spaces and pedestrianizing a section of Orchard Road. Even if it is a partial pedestrianization, it shows the government’s effort to bring shoppers, particularly the locals back to the shopping street by enhancing the whole shopper experience.
Under the plan, Orchard Road will be divided into four sub-precincts: the main Orchard stretch will be retail with luxury and flagship stores, Tanglin will be an arts and artisanal mixed use neighbourhood, Somerset will be for youth and entertainment, and Dhoby Ghaut will have green spaces with family-friendly attractions. This will entail new retail concepts, lifestyle attractions and events. Trees and shrubs may also be planted along the street with various and colourful flowers that will signal the sub-precinct.
This is a good initiative because we need to have differentiation of retail clusters given our small domestic market. When we have clear distinctions of retail offerings from one another, it brings a more holistic retail experience to shoppers altogether. They will not feel bored walking down from Tanglin to Dhoby Ghaut because each cluster gives them a refreshed retail experience.
The Challenge of Luring and Retaining Shoppers
Singapore’s hot and humid climate does not really allow a pleasant walk among a nice variety of shops and restaurants at the street level. Because of that, shoppers in general prefer to remain underground once they exit from the MRT station. However, this makes Orchard Road a somewhat tired retail street, as compared to the other famous main streets such as Oxford Street in London, Fifth Avenue in New York or the Champs-Elysées in Paris.
Hence, planting more trees and shrubs could moderate the heat and encourage more people to come out to the street level, making the shopping boulevard more pleasant to pedestrians. The biggest test of success will be the ability of the outdoor events and promotions to woo shoppers back into the shopping malls. It is important to differentiate the green spaces and features from other green spaces such as Gardens by the Bay and East Coast Park.
The retail offerings of the new development sites should complement the ones in the main shopping belt, which is currently made up of luxury and flagship stores. The market would be weary of a supply overhang given that the retail market has been challenged by a slow-down in shopper traffic over the years.
Partnerships and Unique Shopping Experience: Keys to Improving Shopper Traffic
While the plans are more of an ongoing enhancement to the existing infrastructure, larger concerns remain. Retailers need to address the challenges of technology disruptions, e-commerce and the ever-changing preferences of savvy shoppers. Retailers need to be able to differentiate retail offerings along Orchard Road to keep shoppers coming back.
For example, retailers from Dhoby Ghaut area could partner with the authority such as Singapore Tourism Board and NParks to curate the experience on a regular basis when events are held. This will help to bring shoppers close to the nearby malls.
The pedestrian walkways tend to have more seasonal events and promotions that suit the needs of shoppers. If the offerings are exciting, this will also help to bring shoppers back to the main street.
The enhancement of the infrastructure will be effective in so far as the stakeholders – both landlords and retailers – can work together to capitalise on the changes to deliver a unique experience to shoppers which will in turn help to improve shopper traffic, consumer loyalty and retail spending.