May 3, 2009
No shoppers yet at Iluma
Shops in the new mall in Bugis are already holding sales to draw the crowds but eateries say they are doing fine
By Rachael Boon and Nur Shakylla Saifudin
When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. Well, that is usually the case in retail-loving Singapore. But one of the newest shopping centres in town has found that the tough are wimping out on mall-trawling.
Iluma mall, a shiny shopping edifice in Bugis, opened its doors barely a month ago in a soft launch, and already some of its shops are holding sales.
Shopkeepers told LifeStyle that business has been slow on weekdays, picking up only during weekends, so they hope sales will draw the crowds.
Around 60 per cent of the mall's shops were open for business when LifeStyle visited last week, and of these, at least half were offering discounts ranging from 20 to 40 per cent.
The mall consists of 10 levels, and expects to have at least 150 shops ready when it is officially launched next month.
One of the outlets already open is local menswear brand Ryo, and it is offering discounts of up to 20 per cent on merchandise at its third-floor outlet. Ryo owner Melvin Chew, 27, says that ever since the mall opened on March 28, business has been 'pretty slow, and not many shoppers come by'.
'But it's hard to say since it's only been a month. Still, I find it pretty quiet in the mall and not much is going on.'
Womenswear shop Indulg is offering 20 per cent off its clothes. Co-owner Gloria Lee, 35, says: 'I decided to have the sale to draw the crowds, and it will be on as long as sales pick up or till the official launch of the mall.'
However, word of the great deals does not seem to have got out because when LifeStyle was there, some of the shops had no customers at all. Ms Sara Ng, 36, who is the owner of nineteen nighty eight, a womenswear shop on the third floor, says a 10 to 20 per cent discount on clothes 'doesn't help much because customers ask for even more discounts'.
A sales assistant at second-floor outlet Secret Island, one of at least 11 womenswear shops already open for business, says: 'From morning until now, I have not made any sale and no one has walked in. Business is really quiet.' It was 3pm then.
Some shoppers told LifeStyle they were put off as the mall looks unfinished.
Hoardings are still up on the sidewalk in front, most tenants on the first floor have yet to move in and the atrium remains a huge empty space.
Mr Alfonso Chan, who has been to Iluma twice, says: 'When I stepped in, my initial reaction was that it's not open yet.'
The 24-year-old student also said that he expected more of the new mall.
He says: 'I thought it would be like Suntec City, but the stores are not enticing or distinctive. It's so sad. The space is so big and you are the only one walking around.'
Ms Athena Goh, 31, who is in sales, agrees: 'It's a wasted trip and the promotions don't really make me want to buy anything. The place is empty and it dampens the mood.'
However, some food outlets on the fourth floor are faring well, thanks to passing trade from the mall's Filmgarde cineplex on the fifth floor.
Cheeky Chocolates, a dessert cafe on the fourth floor - located steps away from the escalator leading to the cinema - has served nearly 1,000 customers on Saturdays since it opened on April 4.
Owner Aaron Choy, 26, says: 'For those on this floor, we are banking on the cinema to bring in the crowds. Some people come before the show for a drink, and after the movie they come and have dessert. It gets quite insane during the weekends.'
Thai Express' outlet manager, Mr Mustaffa Batisah, 28, agrees: 'Although the dinner crowd is on-off, weekends are crazy and the number of people is double or more than on weekdays.'
The Thai restaurant, which opened nearly a month ago, serves about 60 people a day from Mondays to Thursdays, which 'is very inconsistent because people are still checking Iluma out', he adds.
Even first-floor Japanese restaurant Pasta de Waraku, which is not as easy to find as the fourth-floor eateries because it is tucked away next to the mall's back entrance, is doing brisk business.
ï¿½It attributes this to its dollar-for-dollar discount voucher for diners, redeemable for the whole of this month. The eatery serves around 200 diners on weekdays. On weekends, the number doubles.
Restaurant manager Alvin Lee, 28, says: 'We have been doing a lot of advertising in newspapers and sending out flyers to create more awareness.'
On how the long-established Bugis Junction, the Bugis shopper's favourite haunt, is faring since Iluma opened across the road, a spokesman for landlord CapitaLand Retail says: 'Iluma and its complementary entertainment offerings have not affected shopper traffic in Bugis Junction. We look forward to more patrons visiting the Bugis area with the increased variety of things to see, do and buy.'
An overhead bridge linking the two malls is due to be completed at the end of the year, and the spokesman said it 'will be a positive thing as it will facilitate shopper and commuter flow'. Iluma's management could not be reached for comment.
'It's hard to say since it's only been a month. Still, I find it pretty quiet in the mall and not much is going on'
MR MELVIN CHEW, owner of menswear shop Ryo on the third floor