Funan to shut for revamp
COMPUTER and electronics mall Funan DigitaLife Mall will close from next year to make way for an "aspirational lifestyle destination".
The ageing North Bridge Road mall, which began its life as Funan Centre in 1985, will close in the third quarter of next year for three years of redevelopment, its developer said in a statement yesterday.
The iconic building was once popular with computer buyers and geeks looking for new gadgets. In recent years, however, many consumers have given the mall a miss.
The overhaul is aimed at making the mall relevant to shoppers and retailers, said CapitaLand Mall Trust chief executive Wilson Tan.
The developer is also looking to make full use of Funan's untapped gross floor area of about 388,000 sq ft, which is about half of its allowable gross plot ratio of 7.0.
Nicholas Mak, property consultant firm SLP International executive director, said that three years of redevelopment could mean tearing down most of the building.
"It could be an IT mall but CapitaLand Mall Trust wants to keep options open for now," said Mr Mak.
IT megastore Challenger Technologies has been an anchor tenant at Funan for more than 20 years. The Straits Times understands that it will not reopen its 53,000 sq ft flagship store in another location for now. The chain, which has 46 other outlets, will redeploy all the staff at Funan.
Challenger's Funan megastore contributed only 20 per cent to total revenue in the third quarter of this year, compared with 60 per cent in 2004.
Said chief executive Loo Leong Thye: "Over the last seven years, many of our members and even tourists have also begun shopping at our heartland mall stores."
Meanwhile, consumers are lamenting the impending closure of Funan, saying it is the only credible alternative to Sim Lim Square for tech buys under one roof.
Finance administrator Josephine Lim, 49, said: "I don't think I will go to Sim Lim Square. I'm not that tech-savvy and I'm worried about being conned."
Sim Lim Square has been mired in cheating controversies and tourists have been told to be careful at the mall or avoid going altogether.
Analysts said the two events are a double whammy for Singapore's reputation among tourists as a tech shopping haven.
Said Colin Tan, director of research and consultancy at Suntec Real Estate Consultants: "Having a lot of IT retailers under one roof makes for easier comparison for tourists. Singapore's tourism has more to lose than local consumers, who can always go online."
Online shopping has been one of the factors which contributed to a fall in business at Funan.
Many computer shops in Funan, including South Asia Computer and camera shop John 3:16, have closed in the last three years.
NUS Business School Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon said that some shops have become mere "showrooms" for their online competitors, including United States-based Amazon as well as locally-based Lazada and Qoo10 - all of which sell tech gadgets.
"Consumers go to shops to feel and try the products but buy them online," she said.