Katong Shopping Center
Property Type: Business and office
Where: 865 Mountbatten Road (District 15)
Katong Mall is the largest chicken rice stall in Singapore.
Seriously, we suspect that the famous chicken rice stall in the basement food court (with its gigantic soup bowls, its free-flowing achar and its sometimes hour-long lines of chicken rice ) represents two thirds of visitors; maids more or less make up the rest.
But don’t get me wrong, we don’t hate this mall. Only on this list because we love its history and believe it still has so much potential for rebirth. And before it was reduced to two commodities (rice with chicken and maids), the Katong shopping center was the ideal place.
It was the first shopping center in Singapore to be fully air conditioned when it opened in 1973 (in the old days, some individual stores may have been air conditioned, but the common areas were generally not).
At the time, it was famous for a much wider range of retail stores (although dominated by textiles) and for the many “open-air” restaurants in the outdoor tent areas. We even dare to say that it was on the East Coast what Takashimaya is today at Orchard Road. Today, however, its most interesting retail business seems to come from small fashion boutiques, a Chinese comic book store, and a reputable aquarium store in the basement.
Sim Lim Square
Property Type: Business and office
Term of office: 99 years from 1983
Where: 1 Rochor Canal Road (District 7)
Yeah, yeah, we know – 2015 has called, and they want to find their easy target.
But seriously, Sim Lim Square is seriously injured and never seems to have fully recovered after the Jover Chew saga (and most of us have not recovered from seeing his naked photos).
Whether by well-meaning friends or relatives, many buyers are advised to “buy nothing on the fourth floor or below”. Not a good first impression.
If we want to take a closer look, the decline of the mall isn’t just due to the scammers – many of them have actually drifted. The very nature of the mall may be the problem. You see, data centers, like its former competitor Funan Center, just haven’t done well over time. Retailers are often reduced to “free showcases”, where people play with gadgets, then go home and order them online at a cheaper price.
In this sense, Sim Lim Square is the victim of a sub-specialization. It’s almost all electronics. Not only can customers likely find the same items that cost less online, but they are also less likely to be scammed.
What drives Sim Lim Square, in terms of retail, seems to be the hardware stores on the upper floors. It is still the Mecca for those who like to create custom PCs. But you can’t manage a giant mall on this one retail option, and there isn’t much else that appeals to buyers.
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Where: Bayfront Avenue (District 1)
Shock and horror, how to put this high-end mall on the list! Many of you will likely disagree with us, and that’s good – here’s why we put this mall on this list:
The entire mall consists of rows of good luxury stores (sorry, shops) and expensive restaurants. While there are concessions in this, not all restaurants or shops are just for the super-rich, most of the retail options at this mall are more accessible to a corrupt foreign dictator than Singaporean buyers of the middle class. But then again, it may be exactly who is targeting the mall.
And what’s frustrating is that this mall is still attracting locals even if they have to start auctioning their kidneys to afford most of the items here. Maybe because the air conditioning is free and the toilets are pretty good. And maybe one of them would be tempted to feel what credit card debt looks like in the form of a Hermes leather bag.
Alas, money cannot buy souls. Even during the Christmas period, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands lacks warmth. There is a pretentious and plastic feel to the place; from oversized architecture to rough consumerism of high-end brands placed from end to end.
The service personnel of these high-end boutiques, although undoubtedly competent, seem to play the role. They tend to put more emphasis on the projection of elegance and dignity than on conviviality since it becomes difficult to say how much cold here can be attributed to air conditioning.
It’s a beautiful shopping center in every way. Except for the fountain which looks like a flush.
Property type: Business and office
Term of office: 99 years from 1948
Where: 190 Clemenceau Avenue on Orchard Road (District 9)
Those of you who have come recently – all three of you – will know the problem with this place: it should not be called a mall. Calling this place “ Singapore Shopping Center ” is like renaming the Parliament “Singapore Arcade Fun Zone”. It is a horrible and misleading lie.
Now there is nothing wrong with the building itself, even if it has been going on for years. In fact, for one of the oldest buildings, it is relatively in good condition. Slightly dark and some slightly musky odors on the upper floors, but all minor issues. Congratulations to management for this. And for the tenants, there are several rows of beauty salons, medical services and well-maintained training centers (nothing fishy, all very professional).
But back to basics: it’s not really a shopping center. It may be a service center, but retail is far behind. And what’s frustrating is that the name of the building – Singapore Shopping Center – is a gold mine of search engine optimization (SEO).
Do you know how easy it is to beat other malls when searching the web when your building name is literally made up of keywords?
Besides, it’s really a waste of such a good location to have just a bunch of services. It is right in front of the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station. We think the nearby Plaza Singapore will face competition, but there is still no reason why a building in such a prime location cannot do much better.
Upper Serangoon Shopping Center
Property Type: Business and office
Where: 756 Upper Serangoon Road (District 19)
Upper Serangoon Mall is the largest video game store in Singapore.
Computex, which is famous for low-cost video games for PCs and consoles (yes, even recent games), continues to attract a loyal crowd of buyers. But other than that, the retail options in this once iconic mall are now disappearing.
Most of the tenants have gotten rid of it now, so the mall looks and feels like a Tomb Raider level. And during the week, let’s just say that you would probably find a more lively scene if you break into the Mandai crematorium at midnight.
Still, the mall has a handful of services like hair salons and salons, and a few small restaurants (which seem to draw most of the crowd). And we have to respect the other store owners, who are clearly good at their jobs; many of them have kept the same customers for decades.
Overall, however, the mall simply lacks retail options; forget the navigation and come only if you have a specific store in mind.
Also, if someone who runs the mall reads this, turn on the lights! The building is for buyers, not cave explorers. A little more lighting would make a huge difference.