Managing director Tan Kee Yong talks about how the assets in the property manager’s portfolio are being revamped and refreshed as community malls to meet neighbourhood needs

  

AsiaMalls Management, property manager of Pramerica Asia Retail Fund’s portfolio of six suburban malls and an office tower in Singapore, has been busy with asset enhancement works. The latest is Century Square, which was closed in September for a $60 million makeover.

More than 40 schemes for Century Square were considered over a two-year period before AsiaMalls embarked on the asset enhancement initiative (AEI), says Tan Kee Yong, managing director of AsiaMalls Management.

Century Square is one of three malls in Tampines Central, and this is its first major AEI since it opened in 1995. Prior to its closure, the 199,641 sq ft mall had 125 shops. When it reopens in 2H2018, it will have a new façade and layout with 218 retail outlets. Previous anchor tenants such as BHG department store, NTUC Fairprice Finest supermarket and Century Cineplex will be moving out.

 

At least 59% of the space at Century Square has already been taken up

At least 59% of the space at Century Square has already been taken up

  

New tenant mix

In their place will be new tenants such as lifestyle grocer Mahota Market and a restaurant where shoppers can have their groceries cooked on the spot; FilmGarde Cineplex; childcare service operator Orange Academy; and The Learning Lab enrichment centre. There will also be a 24-hour gym operated by Gymmboxx.

AsiaMalls has partnered the National Library Board to set up a digital library at Century Square, where people can browse and borrow eBooks.

F&B outlets will take up 30% of the net lettable space at Century Square. AsiaMalls is exploring new F&B concepts such as a 24-hour vending machine café. The mall’s existing tenant Food Junction will return with a new brand, “The Food Market by Food Junction”, with a greater variety of concept stalls and digital payment for the convenience of diners. Popular hotpot restaurant operator Hai Di Lao is set to open its second restaurant in the east at Century Square, following its first at CapitaLand Mall Trust’s Bedok Mall.

Century Square is already 59% pre-leased and at least half of the tenants will be new to Tampines when the mall reopens next year. According to Tan, the AsiaMalls team had conducted surveys with shoppers and residents in the Tampines area to better understand their needs. “We want to provide a better experience for visitors to our mall,” he says.

Century Square will showcase AsiaMalls’ concepts for “omnichannel retail”, which bridges the divide between bricks-and-mortar and e-commerce, continues Tan. There will be “shoppable walls”, which are screens that will allow shoppers to access retail offerings that are not physically in the mall.

 

Tampines 1 in Tampines Central is also managed by AsiaMalls

Tampines 1 in Tampines Central is also managed by AsiaMalls 

 

AsiaMalls is also looking at how the platform can be used to help its bricks-and-mortar tenants enter the e-commerce market. “This could be an extra revenue source for our tenants,” says Tan.

Besides Century Square, Pramerica Asia Retail Fund has another mall in Tampines Central — Tampines 1. Other malls in the portfolio are Hougang Mall on Hougang Avenue 10; Liang Court on River Valley Road; Central Plaza, a 20-storey office building, and the adjacent Tiong Bahru Plaza, which is linked to the Tiong Bahru MRT station; as well as White Sands mall, which is linked by a covered walkway to the Pasir Ris MRT station. The six malls and office building have a total net lettable area of 1.5 million sq ft and is valued at $2.7 billion.

 

Rise in shopper traffic post-asset enhancements

Century Square is the third mall in AsiaMalls’ portfolio to undergo a major AEI. Tiong Bahru Plaza reopened in March 2016 after a facelift that cost more than $90 million. The revamp increased its gross floor area (GFA) to 215,000 sq ft, from 190,000 sq ft. New community spaces such as an open terrace on Level Four and a plaza, which caters for events such as flea markets or performances, were introduced. The number of retail outlets was increased to 155, from 150, and more than 30% of the tenants were new to the mall, according to AsiaMalls.

 

Tiong Bahru Plaza reopened in March 2016 after an AEI that cost more than $90 million

Tiong Bahru Plaza reopened in March 2016 after an AEI that cost more than $90 million

 

The $40 million revamp of White Sands in Pasir Ris was completed in May 2016. It reopened with a new façade and 57 new tenants. The Pasir Ris Public Library, located on Level 4 of White Sands, reopened with a new space for young adults called Teens’ Mezzanine.

On Level 2 of White Sands is G Military, a shop that sells military and camping goods. According to Tan, army boys heading to and from Pulau Tekong, along with their families, make up a substantial proportion of visitors to White Sands. The choice of G Military as a tenant therefore “hits the spot” in serving the “community of army boys”, he says.

According to Tan, Tiong Bahru Plaza and White Sands saw a “double-digit percentage jump” in shopper traffic, following their AEIs. “It’s still trending upwards,” he adds.

Tan says the vacancy rate of the six malls managed by AsiaMalls is below 2% — much lower than the average vacancy rate of 8.1% for retail space across Singapore, according to URA data as at 2Q2017. It is the highest level since 3Q2016, when it was 8.4%.

Meanwhile, shoppers’ spending slipped 5% between the recent peak in 2013 and 2016, according to the Department of Statistics’ retail sales index (excluding motor vehicles). On the other hand, malls managed by AsiaMalls saw shoppers’ spending grow 1% y-o-y, according to Tan. “I think the numbers speak for themselves.”

He believes the answer lies in positioning AsiaMalls’ portfolio as “community malls” to cater to the needs of those who live and work in the area. “The economy may fluctuate, but people will still need to eat and shop for necessities,” he reasons.

 

White Sands saw a double-digit percentage jump in shopper traffic, following its AEI

White Sands saw a double-digit percentage jump in shopper traffic, following its AEI

 

Army boys heading to G Military, a shop at White Sands that sells military and camping goods

Source: AsiaMalls Management

Army boys heading to G Military, a shop at White Sands that sells military and camping goods

 

AMperkz reward programme

In December 2015, AsiaMalls launched AMperkz, its reward programme. Today, it has about 117,000 members.

On average, F&B outlets take up about 25% of the space across AsiaMalls’ six retail properties and are among the top-performing trades. He foresees the proportion of F&B space in malls will increase to more than 30%.

To offer greater convenience to diners at its malls, AsiaMalls has partnered restaurant reservation platform Chope in the AMperkz mobile app. Users can make reservations through the app and check the number of carpark lots available at the properties managed by AsiaMalls.

Instead of having physical shopping vouchers, AsiaMalls launched an e-voucher system for AMperkz on July 21. The move has turned AMperkz into a cashless payment platform. Users can buy the e-vouchers, which are then stored in e-wallets. They can pay at participating outlets in AsiaMalls’ portfolio by letting the operators scan the QR code generated by their mobile app. According to AsiaMalls, more than $600,000 worth of e-vouchers have been sold.

AMperkz also allows AsiaMalls to track the behaviour of shoppers via their purchases. The insights, such as how frequently shoppers visit and what they spend on, are shared with the retail operators to help them do more targeted and effective marketing.

According to Tan, Century Square will have a shopper-tracking system. “Insights on gender, age group and shopper traffic flow will help our tenants create a better experience for their customers,” he says.

 

Tan foresees the proportion of F&B space in malls will increase to more than 30%

Source: AsiaMalls Management

Tan foresees the proportion of F&B space in malls will increase to more than 30%

 

This article, written by Lin Zhiqin, appeared in EdgeProp Pullout, Issue 799 (Oct 2, 2017)