ORCHARD Road has a sparkling new competitor.
The tired shopping street with all the major brands has already taken some battering in recent years as online and overseas shopping habits eat into its trade.
But with the opening of Jewel Changi Airport, the pressure is turned up for retailers in a big way.
Jewel Changi Airport, which opened on 17 April to the public is a huge space that continues with the tiny Republic’s need to keep opening oversized spaces to attract interest.
Replacing the outdoor car park at Changi Airport Terminal 1, Jewel sparkled to life in just over four years, after breaking ground in December 2014.
Designed by Moshe Safdie, who also designed Marina Bay Sands (and the upcoming fourth tower), Jewel is a mixed-use development that sees Singapore fall back on its tried and tested formula: large shopping spaces with additional features tagged on.
Vast malls are not new as weary shoppers can be seen at Marina Bay Sands, Suntec, Vivo City and Marina Square.
The 10-storey Jewel offers 280 retail and F&B outlets, YotelAir which offers rooms by the hour.
There are several features that bring nature into the huge structure, many neatly packaged with brand names eager to ride on Singapore’s aviation success story. The Shiseido Forest Valley, Manulife Sky Nets and other garden features walks and bridges. The highlight is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, the 40m HSBC Rain Vortex.
Familiar Brands Abound
There are around two dozen new brands to Singapore like Shake Shack, Pokémon, Burger & Lobster, Swiss chocolatier, Laderach, along with returning burger and root beer chain A&W, that have contributed to the interest levels. The burger brands have seen long lines (up to 2 hours waiting) forming, underlining the fact that Singaporeans love a queue.
Other homegrown brands — Tiger Beer, Naiise and Supermama — feature concept stores.
But as you work your way through the shopping floors of this 135,700sqm complex, you see most of the usual mass market and medium-tier brand names you’d find along Orchard Road or in the suburban malls.
Surprisingly, given its high-end name, apart from Sincere Fine Watches and Franck Muller, the luxury brands have stayed away. Or were they kept away?
Drawn To The Sparkle
Singapore’s diminutive size serves as an advantage for Jewel. With public transport taking residents into the mixed-use development, and the world able to drop by while visiting or en route to other locations, this new destination will probably be a shining success.
Changi Airport keeps winning the best global airport title, and Jewel will make it tough for the usual chasing pack to catch up. At least for a while.
Tourists on stopover will not have to bother to venture into town any more. Between the luxury brands in the duty free areas of the terminals and the shopping and dining in the Jewel, they would have pretty much captured the essence of Singapore.
With the waterfall and the gardens surrounding it, along with new facilities opening up, they could easily spend a day in transit in this microcosm of Singapore.
Likewise, for Singapore residents, they can wander through yet another mall, enjoying a host of new and Instagrammable experiences and sights and sounds. The #jewelchangiairport has already got more than 25,000 posts in a short time, mainly images of the waterfall.
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And unlike Orchard Road where you have to occasionally brave the elements to get from one complex to another, you can do it all in air-conditioned comfort at Jewel, and with free Wi-Fi (#WiFi@Jewel).
It must be disheartening for the Orchard Road retailers to have to face another challenger. But since CapitaLand is one of the developers of Jewel, maybe some of the sparkle may rub off as fresh ideas from their new endeavour are incorporated into its developments along Singapore’s main shopping drag.