Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The difference management makes to malls

It is the school holiday season again.

I have been very fortunate enough to be spending more time with my family. But when my family enjoy their dose of food, shopping and sight-seeing, I actually see the shops and foods through an investor lens. (quite fun actually, since I previously detest shopping)

I am always amazed at how crowded the suburban capital land malls are, so I was really surprised to see the shops at SIngapore Flyer almost empty. Singapore Flyer is located at an iconic place, is an integrated part of the skyline of Singapore river, but the traffic and that area is really ... hmm.. dismal. Not that it is a ghost town, but given how densely populated SIngapore is and Singaporeans national pastime of shopping and eating, the Singapore Flyer is really under performing, and is little wonder it is on receivership.

I went on a weekend, and there is Uncle Ringo Theme rides to attract kids and family, a child ticket will entitle you to 3 free rides. I am quite excited, but when I reach there, I find the theme rides very messily placed around the lobby area of the SIngapore Flyer, the bumper cars rides are not properly set up, although the guy at the bumper car rides are attentive, the rest of the part time girls are downright rude, one did not notice my son already went into the playground, and I have to pass the ticket to her; the other rudely ask for my ticket as if I am trying to cheat on them.

I like the food court there, but the rest of the F&B restaurants really have no theme, there is paradise restaurant which is rather well-known, the rest of the restaurants are unheard of. There is an arcade, a handbag accessories shop, the place is poorly lit.

I wonder aloud, what not use the river view to set up coffee houses and bars, it should be very popular. The idea of attracting family is good, but they need more than Uncle Ringo, and please, Uncle Ringo did not even send in his main troops. Given the main attraction is not actually an attraction that will attract return customers, the side attractions become really important then. The route from the carpark to the Flyer is now a ghost town, a performing theatre can be build there, invite performers, especially those that kids like to perform there.

You need more than ad-hoc shops there to attract shoppers, I know competition is stiff in the area, but the area is actually very strategic. They should be some cross selling of  tickets or joint promotion with the hotels around the area. Beside families, the Flyer should be popular with young couples, have the highest floor for Atas dinning and prenium access to Flyer.


I also went orchard for my in-laws and wife to get their retail therapy. We went paragon and then Takashemaya. Paragon basement is crowded with people looking for food, and there is a good mix of F&B choices. The second level and third level are the atas shopping, with branded boutique shops and the third level is occupy by achor tenants like marks and spencer and metro. But as I go further up, the crowd really thin, in fact, there isn't much crowd in mark and spencer and there is really any customers' service experience to blog about. After I get a book from the times bookshop, I am really surprise to see "mum and pop" shops at the fourth level of Paragon. The interior design of some shops make them look like mom and pop shops and the display of goods are also cramped and haphzard. I thought:" hmm... they cater to the budget-minded too, well, the rents are expensive, how do they compete", as these thoughts were running through my mind, I pick up an Adidas polo jersey and was shocked to see the price tag of $120. Er... you want me to part with $120 for a shirt, I think the shop seriously need to do better than that. Some of the shops did not seem to have gone through screening, given the "atas" reputation of Paragon.

But when we went over to taka, it is world apart, the place is packed with shoppers, and I remark to my wife: "angry, the more expensive the good is, the more crowded the shop is", and my wife replied, "Singaporeans are rich". Well, I definitely do not belong to the rich category. There are promoters at almost every corners, every time my mum-in-law picks up a handbag, they will appear within minutes, offering suggestions, talking about the available of colors and the discount they are offering now, although I have seen more skillful promoters, I guess you have to give very high marks for attentiveness.

When we went to the basement, there are various unqiue F&B options that wet my appetite, too bad I am vegetarian today. Just when I thought it is just Taka that is gearing itself up for the festive season, I find attentive promoters at watson too, and all the casher counters are opened, and its a tuesday afternoon.

I went away with convictions that when we talk about malls business, apparently it matters to retailers who the management is. If the rent is not too much of a difference, I would set up shop at Ngee Ann City than paragon, and think thrice before I will do it at Flyer. I am not bias, because I would rather paragon do well since SPH indirectly own it.

I am looking at the retail and F&B experience through the lens of a investor, as a consumer, I am not that critical, just give me a book and a place to sit with coffee, and I will be satisfied.

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