You cannot go a day in Singapore without news about some international brand pulling out out of the country due to dwindling profits, or a long time local favourite brand losing the unending battle of sky-high rentals and e-commerce.
Two months ago, we explored the brands that in recent years had to shut down operations after suffering sustained losses in the current market conditions.
Now we’ll look at more retail locations and attractions that have had to succumb to the demons of rising costs and competition.
We begin by tugging at your heartstrings. If you grew up in Singapore, you would definitely have been to Underwater World Singapore at least once in your life. For those who didn’t, I’m sorry but your chance has been destroyed with its recent closing on 26th June.
The signature tunnel that runs through its main aquarium holds many special memories for anyone who had visited it, and for many, it was the first encounter they had with undersea creatures as children.
As with any enclosed wildlife attraction, they were not too far away from trouble, and most recently came under scrutiny in 2014 for the health conditions of its pink dolphin inhabitants. This is nothing new, as a decade back in 2004, they were also accused of the way the dolphins were acquired by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres).
Perhaps the final nail in the coffin came with the opening of the S.E.A Aquarium in Resorts World Sentosa at the tail end of 2012, then the largest oceanarium in the world.
Where Underwater World was becoming very dated and awkwardly located at one corner of Sentosa, the shiny new S.E.A Aquarium was located in the heart of Resorts World Sentosa, and is currently one of the more popular tourist attractions in Singapore.
Thanks for the memories, Underwater World.
While I personally have not bought a single thing from 77th Street, I have accompanied friends who did.
From the latest trendy backpacks, to even getting some bling-bling, they are a synonymous brand among teenagers of the 1990s and early 2000s. What’s more, their stores are as cool as their enigmatic founder Elim Chew.
In a perfect world, Elim would have wanted the last two outlets at Bugis Junction and Ang Mo Kio Hub to soldier on, but with consistently rising rentals, and also the lease of her store in China having ended in June, it was time to bid farewell to the brand.
Catch your last whiff of nostalgia of our very own streetwear store at its last location in Ang Mo Kio Hub before it finally winds down… for good.
Update 20 July 2016: California Fitness has announced that, with immediate effect, all its remaining outlets will be shut down.
This was the source of an internet uproar within the local community this past Friday.
While technically not fully closed down as of yet, the tell-tale signs are there, and soon the writings will be on the wall.
Merely a day after news outlets reported that California Fitness has closed all of its branches in Hong Kong, with those in China to follow suit, gym-goers were stunned to find out that the one in Raffles Place was also closed “until further notice”.
With the branch in Orchard having closed earlier this year in February, they went from four branches to two in less than six months, and if the news from Hong Kong is anything to come by, those who have signed long term memberships with the gym are already preparing for the inevitable.
More popularly known as somewhere to get the latest swanky furniture for your home, Park Mall will be closing its doors come end of September this year.
This comes after the property was bought over through a joint venture for a cool $411.8 million, and there are plans to turn the site into a two-block office property with a retail component, so say goodbye to Park Mall as it will be demolished not long after it officially closes.
In the meantime, you can still snag a good deal or two from the many furniture stores clearing their stocks from now until September.
Perhaps what Park Mall will instead be greatly missed for is actually right beside it – where the largest Fish & Co restaurant has taken residence for 14 years.
Many company dinners, school gatherings and reunions, and birthday parties have graced its dining halls. There’s just something special about having a get-together with large amounts of people while indulging in deep-fried seafood here.
Originally slated to close last month, they instead have extended operations to coincide with the closing of Park Mall itself, so you have until 26 September to reminisce over a plate of fish and chips.
The only other place in the list to have closed recently in June after Underwater World Singapore is of course everyone’s favourite IT mall Funan.
Often preferred to Sim Lim Square due to it’s more convenient location, as well as customer safety (of not getting conned), this place has been the go-to place to get your hands on the latest gadgets and accessories.
In its heyday, the mall had hosted a large variety of events and product launches, from the latest and biggest game titles and consoles, to the latest cameras and computers. The most famous tenant to have graced its floors will definitely be Challenger which takes up the entire 6th floor, and even has its roots in the mall – having had been started there by founder Mr Loo Leong Thye.
Now, the tenants have so far been scattered mostly to nearby Capitaland properties such as Bugis Junction and Plaza Singapura, while others have decided to stay in the vicinity by moving to neighbourhood buildings such as The Adelphi and Peninsula Shopping Center.
If you’ve ever had your fill of chili crab and seafood from Long Beach Seafood Restaurant, or feasted on Korean barbecue with your friends at Ju Shin Jung East Korean Charcoal BBQ Restaurant, you will know that this place is a favourite for friends and family gatherings.
As part of the redevelopment plans by the National Parks Board, the plot of land that Raintree Cove sits on right has a lease that will end on February 28th in 2017, with NParks not revealing too much what visitors can expect in the future, citing that “it is too early to reveal the plans for development.”
Also home to Singapore’s only drive-thru Burger King outlet, this move was not a surprise considering that redevelopment has been ongoing in stages, with the Marine Cove area being opened again just last month with a spanking new McDonald’s outlet.
Another East Coast Park establishment with a lease expiring with NParks, albeit much earlier, is Big Splash.
Closing on 21st October this year, Big Splash is home to several food and beverage establishments much like Raintree Cove.
After 40 years where it currently stands, the company behind it has decided to call time on the business. While it no longer offers the exciting, and downright colourful water slides that made it famous and gave the area its name, many admittedly had fond memories of playing there as kids.
As for the future of the tenants, many have already made plans to move to nearby locales, while also having secured lease extensions at their current location to better facilitate their move.
It won’t be long now until the entirety of the East Coast Parkway loses the old charm that we grew up with, replaced with modernist designs and facilities that we need to grow accustom to.
Not all who went bust were physical entities though.
As the e-commerce scene in Singapore continues to heat up with new players coming in, as well as established brands getting investments to grow larger, victims were also claimed in the process.
The first online retailer casualty of the year comes in the form of Rakuten. To think that not long before they announced the decision to pull out of Southeast Asia, I was sipping on some coffee at the Rakuten Cafe in downtown Shibuya.
As of March this year, they have ceased all online marketplace activities in Southeast Asia, as part of a corporate restructuring plan entitled Rakuten Vision 2020, with a view to redirect resources into their strongholds in Japan and Taiwan.
Interestingly enough, the regional APAC headquarters will still be maintained in Singapore. Maybe it won’t be the last time we’ll be clicking into the Rakuten marketplace – not until 2020 at least.
This one came as a shocker.
On the Monday morning of 20 June, staff of Ensogo at their office in Kallang were told to leave for home abruptly and were chased out before the doors were subsequently locked. Two days later, news outlets reported that on that same Monday, CEO Kris Marszalek had put in his resignation.
Used to be known as Deals.com.sg, who competed with the likes of Groupon back in its day, it was renamed to become Ensogo when it was bought over by its namesake e-commerce platform, and with it, transformed from a flash deals website with little inventory, to a full blown online marketplace.
Signs of trouble were going off as early as March this year when 22 of its 96 employees were asked to leave. Then came the angry merchants who were owed a significant amount of money – amounts owed were as high as $600,000 for one merchant! Signs of the money being returned are also unfortunately looking fainter by the days.
The Changing Faces Of Singapore; Online And Off
Change is constant, as proven by the examples above transcend both the physical and digital realms.
While some were victims due to the presence of new players and an inability to adapt to new business models, others are simply at the mercy of the developers, as shopping malls in Singapore seem to have an ever-decreasing lifespan when it comes to redevelopment.
Perhaps it is time that developers think about ways to retain both tenants and customers, before they have nothing left to redevelop as people continue to increase their online purchasing habits.