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Healthy outlook for retail space demand

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Demand for retail space in Orchard Road and suburban areas is likely to remain healthy as more international retail brands seek to establish a Singapore presence, consultants said.

Though rising business costs and a manpower crunch have put a dent in rents and occupancy rates in the short to medium term, Singapore is gaining more recognition as a global city, they added.


Orchard Road is set for a renewal, with old malls being refurbished and new ones built.

Take the former Heeren. It will be turned into a six-storey, 180,000 sq ft regional flagship department store called Robinsons Orchard.

The refurbishment of Shaw Centre and Shaw House is also likely to be finished by early next year, said Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) executive director Steven Goh.

Mr Goh added that the prime shopping district has managed to attract international brands such as French confectioner Laduree, Hong Kong fashion conglomerate I.T and American furniture retailer Crate and Barrel.

Crate and Barrel will be the anchor tenant at the upcoming Orchard gateway, a $700 million, 172,000 sq ft mall on the site of the former Specialists' Centre, at Somerset. It was supposed to be completed by the end of this year but Mr Goh said it is more likely to be finished in the first quarter of next year.

Another mall is 268 Orchard Road, which is being redeveloped by a unit of Ngee Ann Development into a 147,500 sq ft complex likely to open early next year.

These projects are set to give the area a fresh lease of life.

With many international brands still choosing Orchard Road to make their debut, Orba and mall owners are working together to ensure the area maintains its vibrancy, Mr Goh added.

Occupancy rates in Orchard Road slid from 95.1 per cent as at the end of last year to 92.7 per cent as of March 31.

Estimates of average Orchard Road rents ranged from $32.20 to $36.75 psf per month as at the end of March, depending on the basket of properties tracked.

Rents were 1.3 per cent down quarter-on- quarter, reflecting retailers' resistance to further rental increases, especially in older malls.

Orchard Road retail rents fetch a roughly 8 per cent premium over suburban retail rents, which stayed flat at $29.75 psf per month in the first quarter.

The bulk of retail supply this year will be in suburban areas.

This comes mainly from the 818,000 sq ft Jem and 420,000 sq ft Westgate malls in the Jurong Lake District. Others include the 88,200 sq ft Paya Lebar Square and 220,000 sq ft Bedok Mall.

Suburban retail occupancy rates were at a solid 97.3 per cent as of March, edging down from 97.7 per cent as of December.

Credit from The Straits Times - 18 May 2013
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