If you grew up in the late 1990s or early 2000s, there are definitely a few malls in Singapore that you practically grew up in.
Like Cineleisure or *SCAPE, both of which were considered to be among some of the insanely popular shopping malls in the country back in the day.
But it seems like these shopping malls are no more than a pale, faded-out version of what they used to be, despite being situated in the prime area of Orchard Road.
Here’s what’s been happening and what store owners and the management teams of these malls have to say.
Cineleisure’s Current Plight
For those who grew up around the time when Cineleisure first opened, you probably remember the eye-catching array of stores and the impressive cinema that the establishment boasted when it first opened its doors to the public back in 1997 (yes, almost 30 years ago).
However, when reporters from Lianhe Zaobao visited the shopping mall recently, the number of stores in operation was close to none.
Most of the stores located on the first basement level were cordoned off with panels and boards.
On the second floor, at least a dozen stores or so were empty or were cordoned off as well.
The third floor is currently taken up by facilities such as a gym, dance studio and yoga studio.
The cinema facilities on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors were also deserted on both weekdays and weekends.
Store Owners’ Perspectives: COVID-19 and Reduced Crowd Caused Closing of Stores
And here’s what the storeowners (or former ones) at Cineleisure have to say about the mall that is now a faint shadow compared to its former glorious state.
A current store owner shared that her store’s business fell by around 50-60% during the COVID-19 pandemic and that many store owners were forced to shut their stores during the pandemic due to low profits.
She also witnessed several cases where tenants were unable to pay their stores’ rent, causing the management to reclaim their stores.
Additionally, she noted that the crowd at Cineleisure has decreased greatly over the years, which has further affected store owners’ businesses.
The store owner also shared that various stores, such as a sneaker store and several men’s retail stores, used to be open on the second and third floors.
Unfortunately, none of them made it through the pandemic.
Additionally, another one to two stores selling food and beverages (F&B) shut down too, and the store owner estimated that around 70% of the stores on the second and third storey of the building have shut down in recent times.
A former tenant of the shopping mall who used to run an F&B business revealed that his store was located at Cineleisure for six years.
However, the restaurants’ business fell by 80% after the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The former tenant, who declined to be named, decided to relocate his store at the end of last year after his lease expired.
He explained that the decision was made after noticing that there were still few customers even after the COVID-19 measures in Singapore were relaxed.
According to him, the reduced number of customers was because Cineleisure often relies on the “office crowd”, but many office workers worked from home during the pandemic.
This resulted in his store’s profits being less than half of pre-pandemic profits even after the COVID-19 measures were relaxed.
He also shared that Cathay Organisation, the mall’s management, tried to offer him and his company more attractive rental rates to convince them to stay. Still, he eventually decided to relocate anyway, as he felt that there was not much commercial value in staying.
And it seems like multiple other F&B establishments have the same opinions, with various stores such as Collins and MOS Burger leaving the shopping mall over the past two years as well.
Currently, there are only around five F&B stores in Cineleisure, including KFC, Fat Burger and The Assembly Ground.
When contacted by Zaobao, Cathay Organisation did not directly respond to the issue of many tenants leaving their stores and did not provide any statistics either.
Instead, the spokesperson said that the rental situation of Cineleisure is “good and still active” as of now.
The spokesperson added that some stores had panels and boards around them as they are currently undergoing or starting renovations and that it is inevitable for stores to be empty at times.
According to the spokesperson, this is because some incoming tenants have issues or delays when they apply for the relevant licences for their stores.
Apart from that, it was also revealed that some stores on the first basement, first and second floors have been taken over by “experienced” F&B tenants who will bring “new concepts” to the mall.
These tenants will begin operations from March onwards.
Same Thing is Happening at *SCAPE, But It’s Getting a Revamp Soon
Similarly, *SCAPE has been facing the same issues as Cineleisure.
When Zaobao reporters visited the mall, only one store selling pet clothes was open.
The store owners told Zaobao that their current business is less than half of pre-pandemic times and that they will be closing the store for good after the renovation works to revamp *SCAPE begin.
Regarding the renovation works, the management of *SCAPE previously announced in July last year that the mall will undergo a revamp to redesign its space and upgrade its facilities.
When contacted by Zaobao, the *SCAPE management team only said that the mall has been in operation for 13 years and that an upgrade to update its facilities and brand is needed to cater to the everchanging trends that are popular amongst the youth in Singapore.
The spokesperson added that the new *SCAPE would allow youths to explore and express themselves in new ways.
Additionally, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) also set up a group in 2019 to collate the opinions of youth in Singapore in order to improve the infrastructure along the entire Somerset area.
After the opinions were collated, the “Somerset Belt Masterplan” was developed.
According to the blueprint, *SCAPE, The Red Box, TripleOne Somerset and the skateboarding park area will be turned into a vibrant space for youths in Singapore.
The renovation of *SCAPE is also included in this blueprint, meaning that it probably won’t be long before we get to see a new and improved *SCAPE.
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