Developer: CapitaLand Mall Trust
* Woods Bagot
* RSP Architects Planners & Engineers (Pte) Ltd
By Colin Galloway
Singapore is not a market usually associated with an adventurous approach to retailing, with local mall operators opting over the years mostly for tried and tested formulas as they built out their portfolios. The explosion in online shopping over recent years, however, has forced reassessment of the role brick and mortar retail assets will play in future.
CapitaLand, one of Singapore’s largest developers, therefore created Funan as a testing ground for innovative retail strategies it might use in its many other retail facilities. In the process, it has created a hip, fun, experiential destination full of energy and new ideas.
Funan is located in the middle of Singapore’s civic district, surrounded by a number of staid institutions such as the City Hall, the Supreme Court, and the National Gallery. While this may seem an unlikely location for a venue aimed at a millennial audience, the opportunity to redevelop an older, rundown asset that previously occupied the site provided the momentum for change.
The new mall occupies 83,000 gross floor area (GFA) and features a sometimes-
chaotic mix of uses, including:
In addition, Funan offers a number of unique features that have quickly captured local consumers’ imaginations, such as a publically accessible indoor climbing wall that rises from the basement level into the mall‘s main atrium and a cycle path that enters from one side of the building and exits the other. The path is served by both a bicycle park and shower facilities that allow office workers to use it to commute to work. The facility has proved so popular among local cyclists that a local biking brand has become the best-performing shop in the mall.
Meanwhile, the spirit of experimentation is seen throughout. A scheme launched in conjunction with a nearby university created a mockup of Funan’s co-living facility and recruited students to advise how they think the space should best be set up and used.
The ‘Tree of Life” is a centrepiece feature that occupies 10 percent of the mall’s leasable area. It offers short-term leases (as little as three months) of plug-and-play space for use as workshops for local artisans or pop-up retail for small or start-up brands, allowing them to test new ideas and products. Successful concepts can then take up conventional space either in Funan or one of CapitaLand’s other malls.
Technology, and in particular big data, is used extensively. In particular, more than a thousand cameras installed throughout the development provide real time statistics about how many people are using the mall and the individual shops they are visiting. The mall operator can then use this info to advise retailers, help them curate storefronts and also with merchandising. In addition, it is able to cross-market products between individual tenants and consumers.
Beyond that, by actively curating different experiences and coordinating them between specific types of users, it has attracted significant numbers of new consumers. These include not only cyclists, as already mentioned, but also a ‘super hero’ running club under the umbrella of a well-known athletic clothing brand, a photo club (the local area has long been a centre for photography shops).
The result of this dedication to experimentation is a melting pot of new ideas. As one jury member described it: “What they’ve done is phenomenal in their preparedness to experiment and the intensity of the mix of uses. Some things will work well and others will not, but they are prepared to challenge the conventional and should be commended for their innovation – there will definitely be replication arising from this.”