Can Singapore’s mega mall Jewel Changi Airport redefine the retail experience?

Singapore’s latest mall has big ambitions to create a next-level retail experience with unique attractions and a host of new brands.

April 16, 2019

Shopping mall landlords are increasingly aiming to offer visitors unbeatable experiences in order to redefine themselves in the age of ecommerce.

A S$1.7 billion project in Singapore is aiming to lift the bar ever higher when it opens on April 17. Jewel Changi Airport will let shoppers walk among an indoor forest, 40-meter waterfall, hedge maze, and on top of a net strung high above the trees.

“Jewel Changi Airport has positioned itself to be an iconic destination since it was first conceptualized,” says Lee Siew Ling, Senior Director of Retail, JLL Singapore. “It goes without saying that mall operators need to be innovative to give shoppers good reasons for repeated visits and to spend time and money in the malls.”

The Jewel, a joint venture between Changi Airport Group and CapitaLand, hopes to do just that. Despite being located at one end of the island nation, and billed as an “airport mall”, experts are confident locals will flock there as it sets a new bar for experiential retail.

“The distinctive façade designed by star architect Moshe Safdie, strategic location fronting the airport, the unique attractions at the Canopy Park on the top floor, the indoor waterfall and lush greenery throughout the mall, together with the 280 retail and food-and-beverage stores, are very strong factors that attract tenants,” Lee says.

Among the retail highlights are Southeast Asia’s largest Nike outlet, the return of American fast food chain A&W and Singapore’s first Burger & Lobster and Shake Shack.

The owner of Burger & Lobster, Misha Zelman, said the Jewel Changi Airport is “a ground-breaking innovation,” and “marries perfectly with Burger & Lobster’s obsession with offering products in the most fascinating locations across the world.”

Catchment area

While Jewel is part of the Changi Airport complex and linked directly to the arrival hall of Terminal 1, travellers are expected to make up only 40 percent of the projected 42 million annual visitors to the mall, according to the mall’s management. The rest will be Singapore residents.

The Jewel “caters seamlessly to travellers with facilities such as YotelAir, early check-in and a fly-cruise lounge, but the local market is equally important,” adds Lee.

“It is near to residential neighbourhoods in the eastern part of Singapore with an estimated 1.5 million residents staying within a 20-minute journey,” says Lee.

This is also why brands such as UK clothing retailer Jack Wills and Tanuki Raw, a popular Singaporean eatery known for its donburis, are venturing out of the traditional shopping belts to open their first outlets in the suburbs.

The Jewel Effect  

The hype surrounding Jewel Changi Airport will bring the crowds, but whether it can be sustained will be key to its long-term success.

Lee feels there are enough attractions and experiential elements beyond shopping such as new to Singapore dining concepts as well as the mazes, sky nets and slides, within the unique indoor garden-like oasis for families and millennials to keep them coming.

“There is substantial investment involved to achieve the scale of Jewel Changi Airport. Not every mall will have the capacity to do that, but what’s key is to keep the offerings and experiential elements relevant to your target audience and being committed to their success,” she highlights.

Some new malls around the region are already doing that. Neighbouring Johor Bahru’s upcoming R&F mall is eyeing the Singapore market by having a link bridge to the checkpoint, a state of the art cinema and a massive supermarket.

Bangkok’s largest mall, IconSiam, opened last December. It has a seven-storey Takashimaya department store, as well as Thailand’s first outlet of Japanese beauty chain, Cosme. It’s also made Thai culture as a centrepiece with Sook Siam – a 15,000 square meter space showcasing small businesses and products from the country’s 77 provinces.

“I won’t be surprised if Jewel Changi Airport would spur more malls in the region to up their game,” Lee says.

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