Revamp planned for beleaguered Orchard Central mall

Singapore’s most shopper-unfriendly mall is to get a makeover.

The 11 storey Orchard Central shopping centre has been trading for six years. But the majority of shoppers visiting the centre rarely get beyond the first few floors, such is the complicated, bewildering pattern of walkways and escalators between levels. Some shoppers have described the mall’s design as “complicated”.

The centre even has an open air rooftop garden – accessed by a multistory express escalator, or elevators. But the few times Inside Retail Singapore has visited it, there have been but a couple of visitors relaxing in the sun.

The makeover is scheduled to be completed by the third quarter of 2016 and will “optimise accessibility and improve shopping experience”, in the words of Eric Tong, Far East Organization’s assistant director of retail business.

The revamp is coinciding with a change in tenancies, with mall owner Far East Organization evicting 21 businesses to make way for more multinational brands. It is promising the arrival of a major brand which is setting up its first Southeast Asia flagship in the mall. The Straits Times has reported Uniqlo will take a three-story space.

One of the evicted tenants is local cafe EwF (Everything with Fries) which has posted a notice outside its store farewelling shoppers, and noting its disappointment at being chased out.

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“After having stuck it out at Orchard Central for more than five years, through the early years when this mall was dead and empty and saw the demise of many international fast food player, we are proud to say that today we find ourselves in a position where we have built a great Singapore brand with a loyal following and have outlasted other far more eminent big brands.

“Now that things are finally looking up for us, our landlord has said it wants us to give up this space, EwF’s first home, for an international retail brand…

“Guess this is what SMEs suffer with their landlords all the time. Realities are harsh for small guys like us.”

The cafe will close on December 31, with customers invited to visit its other outlet in Victoria St, at Bugis Junction.

“We leave with a heavy heart (not really missing the landlord…).”

Among other tenants being kicked out is eatery Central Hong Kong Cafe. Both cafes were offered alternative space in parts of the mall with poor pedestrian flow which did not make commercial sense.

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