Is Orchard Road Too Pedestrian?

Singapore’s glitzy and glamorous high street is set for yet another new stage in its evolution.

The the talk is now about pedestrianizing the busy five-lane thoroughfare (starting with the right-most lane). Could this hold the long-term answer to breathing life into the flagging shopping street?

The goal, according to Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, is to make Orchard Road more pedestrian friendly to promote more street-level activity to improve the overall experience of the space.

Expanding the pedestrian mall will offer more space to host pop-up retail, events, food and beverage vendors, and even markets and bazaars a la Thailand, Malaysia, and Taiwan. It is probably hoped that all this increased activity will draw the crowds and ultimately encourage more spending there.

Can pedestrianisation bring vibrancy to a space that has become increasingly pedestrian in recent years?

Before you delve into this week’s Friday Focus, check out what STORM has to say about it HERE.

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Ms Patrina Tan, Senior Vice President, Retail, Marketing & Leasing, OUE Limited

Pedestrianised streets can be successful for a host of reasons, among them for activities and pop-ups and contribute vitality to the retail scene. When done right, a pedestrianized street can give retailers the opportunity to create new experiences to entice consumers back to Orchard Road but those involved need to be committed to making this a success.

I think a pedestrianised street has the potential to help Orchard Road.

The traditional approach that retailers and merchants have applied for decades needs to evolve along with the shopping and lifestyle needs and habits of modern consumers. We need to look beyond transactions to consider and curate the right experiences that consumers cannot get online, or anywhere else.

Orchard Road has recently caught a lot of flak for being “boring” — while there are a lot of malls in the area, the stores they house tend to be similar. A pedestrianized street can draw more people and bring a form of dynamism to the scene because it is a fresh new concept for Orchard Road. For this to be sustainable in the long run though, it is essential that the experiences and activities are well thought out.

There have already been concerns and grouses from businesses on how it can inconvenience their trading. The truth of the matter is that businesses need traffic, new eyeballs, so that they have opportunities to convert to sales.  Of course there will be changes to adapt to operationally as a mall owner along Orchard Road, but the activities will bring vibrancy and life back to the street.  For the business owners, know your consumers and stay relevant —opportunity will present itself.

At OUE we believe in understanding the needs and desires of the modern consumer, so we can deliver true value. OUE has partnered with New York futurist Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve previously to peer deeper into how consumer preferences are shifting. From there, we created a series of unique experiences in Mandarin Gallery with the intention of intriguing and surprising consumers who were tired of seeing the same old things.

In The Gallery Experience, we have featured silent yoga, customised fashion workshops, and ice cream treats, and the fact that these experiences have been over-subscribed each time underscores the positive reception.

Herve Duboscq, General Manager, Hotel Jen Orchardgateway

The issues faced by Orchard Road have definitely increased with the changes in the retail industry as well as the rise in e-commerce. I think fresh ideas and innovation are definitely needed to address these issues.

At Hotel Jen Orchardgateway Singapore, we are always constantly innovating and bringing new experiences to help our patrons and visitors leave boring behind.

It certainly would be interesting to see how a pedestrianised street would impact the Orchard Road community.

Dato’ Dr. Jannie Chan, Senior Advisor & Co-Founder of The Hour Glass Ltd.

I am shocked that such a plan for Orchard Road is being considered!

It does not make sense!

Orchard Road has been Singapore’s high street for almost 40 years. We spent so much building it like Ginza district in Japan. We have filled with expensive shopping malls and many have invested into what is the heart of Singapore retail.

You cannot just decide to change that. It cannot be a pedestrianised space with pop-ups, bazaars, and buskers and also a premium-shopping destination. This will destroy the capital value of the whole area.

We have to recognise that (the local issues with retail) are just part of a global down cycle. And we cannot make snap judgements just yet.

Important questions must first be answered — what are they trying to achieve with this? Objectives must be made very clear before we can launch into a new initiative. The government also needs to bring more stakeholders into the issue. Retailers, businesses, and property owners in the area need to be consulted. We need to have a forum, together, to discuss and brainstorm the issues before any decisions can be made. We have to come up with a holistic solution, not just a stopgap Band-Aid solution.

I think it would be useful to consider pedestrianisation as an experiment for the time being — similar to Pedestrian Night at Orchard Road from 2016 — but it cannot be made permanent.

Better yet, if they want to pedestrianise a space for pop-ups and bazaars, why not consider Somerset Road or some other street?

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Chris Chong, Chief Executive of Orchard Turn Developments

ION Orchard will explore opportunities with the Singapore Tourism Board to see how we can bring more experiential activities at the outdoor space ION2. It is a good opportunity and definitely there’s a lot more space and events that we can explore for different lifestyle concepts.

Besides the “pedestrianisation” on Orchard Road, we have existing attractions such as ION Sky, which is the tallest point on Orchard Road, can serve as an attraction for the tourists. In addition, we have also recently announced multi-city collaborations with partner malls in the region, to encourage tourists to visit ION Orchard and to give them privileges when they come and visit us. So we hope that this will increase the tourism on Orchard Road.

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Should Orchard Road Traffic Be Stopped?

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Main Image: Komar /

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