America is certainly the heartland of the Mall, but no other country has embraced this wonderful invention quite like Singapore. At the heart of Singapore Mall culture is the breathtaking Orchard Road - stretching from the Orchard Tower to the Plaza Singapura, a Mall fan is likely to lose their mind in this glorious Shopping Centre city, with dozens of stunning Malls dotted along the way. The fact is that nothing can tear Singaporeans away from their favourite Malls, not least the lure of online shopping.
Singapore, a tiny city state in the heart of Asia, is a relatively new country, but got a taste for Shopping Centres only a very short time after the first true Mall, the Southdale Centre, was built in the United States under the watchful eye of the Father of the Mall Victor Gruen. The first in Singapore was the Tang Plaza way back in 1958, and they have been popping up regularly ever since. Incredibly, as quick as they are built and opened, eager shoppers fill them up with ease.
Citizens of the Lion City know how to Mall. They understand that the experience is just as important as the goodies with which one leaves. Being highly social creatures, hanging out with friends at the Mall comes naturally; previously it may have been parks, tea houses or cafeterias, but the lure of sweet air conditioning, entertainment and unbelievable shopping has proved far too tempting. Locals are neat and accommodating, ensuring that no matter how busy the Mall gets, it is always a fantastic experience.
Vivocity (featured in the images) is probably the finest example of a Shopping Mall in Singapore. Being the largest in the country, it houses almost 400 stores over five floors within its highly futuristic structure. Unlike its modern brethren around the globe, Vivocity (like many other Malls in Singapore) is truly old-school - it is cozy and colourful, with a definite 80’s Mall vibe which we absolutely adore. If we saw Tiffany dancing her way down an escalator wearing an outfit made completely out of denim and scrunchies, we would not bat an eyelid!
For all of the reasons above, Amazon struggles to find a foothold in the country, like nowhere else in the world. One could easily get the impression that someone like Amazon is immune to the Mall, given the nonsense we constantly hear about how they are the harbinger of death for the Shopping Centre, but the online giant just cannot pull Singaporeans out of their glorious cocoons of retail deliciousness and get them to buy what they’re after on the interwebs.
Bloomberg has recently reported that Amazon are having a tough time, despite offering insane services such as a guaranteed two-hour delivery time for orders over S$40. Unfortunately that was a little over-optimistic and they haven’t been quite able to fulfil this guarantee every time - not exactly an ingratiating development. One of the other major problems for Amazon is that there are just too many huge Malls within a short distance to most Singaporeans, so they are far more likely to spend a great day out at the Mall and pick up what they're after then and there - and quite frankly if you can’t find what you’re looking for on Orchard Road, it either doesn’t exist or you are on the wrong road.
According to Euromonitor, while for the likes of the rest of Asia, online retail can account for up to 20% of total retail sales, in Singapore the figure is around 5%. Of that 5%, the vast majority of people are using the likes of Chinese Alibaba and German Lazada. Numbers and statistics aside, it just boils down to the fact that Malls are just too damn awesome. In a savvy move, Lazada has recently teamed up with Malls across Singapore to enable people to purchase online and then pick up at the Mall - that way, people get to have their requisite Mall time (avoiding amy possible withdrawal symptoms) and Lazada gets some moolah.
This growing trend has certainly rattled online retailers - so much so that Alibaba is currently constructing a huge five-level Mall near its headquarters in Hangzhou, China under the working title ‘MoreMall’ (we sincerely hope they reconsider. The name that is, not the Mall; we can't wait to see what the crazy mind of Jack Ma comes up with). Amazon are also in on the act, with their physical bookstores having opened in Malls across America this year. Of course Amazon’s recent surprise acquisition of Whole Foods supermarkets is also clear evidence that they want a bigger physical presence.
So the next time you’re Mallratting and notice a forlorn figure on the other side of the glass staring longingly at you, it will most likely be an Amazon executive lusting after your wallet or purse, wondering what she or he has done to upset you. With 7.2 million visitors to Malls every month in the magnificent Asian Tiger, we know where Singapore’s retail heart lies. We shall leave you with the wise words of Tan See Yong, Managing Director of AsiaMalls management: ‘The main reason that shoppers continue to shop in a physical store is due to the in-store experience; something irreplaceable by e-commerce.’ True dat, Mr. Yong, true dat.