Beyond the hype: Can Jewel Changi create longevity in its footfall?

In recent times, Jewel Changi has been all the rave from its jaw dropping waterfall to mouth-watering F&B outlets. Since Jewel Changi opened its doors in April, several brands have been adding special twists to their stores and marketing efforts, including a cafe launch by contemporary footwear business PAZZION, a Peranakan-inspired concept store by FairPrice Finest, and art installation by SHISEIDO Travel Retail.

But as expected, as time passes, the snaking queues are getting shorter and several tenants in the vicinity told news outlets such as TODAY that traffic has slowly started to dwindle.

In fact, this phenomenon is not isolated to Jewel Changi alone, and every new attraction faces the same phenomenon, explained Luke Lim, group chief executive officer at Louken Group. Lim added that retailers and food and beverage operators can expect the flow of footfall to stablise after the third month onwards, which will be more reflective of the mid-long term flow. To extend the longevity of the hype nonetheless, Lim advised that the mall owner and individual retailers should combine their efforts to push out continuous social media campaigns, and plan regular events and activation. Another key to attracting footfall, he added, is for retailers to market unique offerings exclusive to Jewel Changi.

Meanwhile, Geometry APAC chief experience officer Andreas Mollemann advised retailers to invest in something more lasting such as experiences, as media attention is temporary. Malls, in particular, have become places of experience, not just shopping.

“For shopping, I increasingly go online. But for an experience, I go to places that entertain, allow me to explore and discover, satisfy my senses and my needs. Shopping, increasingly, is the result of a mall visit, not the starting point. So the answer is simple: put the experience in focus, not just products,” he explained.

It is also important for shop owners to correct their perception on innovation. Rather than a costly investment, innovation is a process and a culture, said Mollemann. Being customer-centric is therefore, the key for retailers to stay relevant and come up with good ideas regularly. He added,

If your organisation doesn’t come up with lots of innovation, it suggests it isn’t customer-centric.

However, Wong Mei Wai, founder and chief change catalyst at APAC Global advisory was of the view that the hype is not sustainable and retailers cannot afford to ride on Jewel Changi’s popularity alone. While the increased media coverage should have a positive effect for all brands, Wong said success is ultimately determined by how they maximise their activities to leverage the publicity of the mall.

“While there has been much coverage on global brands, our local brands in the other store locations could ride on this to draw customers who may want to purchase bespoke Singapore gifts through their merchandise mix and raise the benchmark of the visual merchandising to draw in the crowds,” she said.

Malls, which are increasingly seen as “media experience playgrounds” according to Wong, present a good opportunity for retailers to brew up full-sensory experiences and tactical attractions to draw the attention of tourists and locals. To do so, the mall, retailers and food and beverage outlets have to find synergies to bring across new ideas such as interesting pop-up stores and engagement activities that link to the retail tenants and draw in the multi-target groups. She added that while it is common for retailers to attach a hefty price tag to innovation, it is not necessarily true as there are also opportunities to innovate in smaller aspects such as presentation, store experience and promotions.

“Innovation should be taken at different levels, beyond high-level product innovation which can come with significant investment in research and development. Staying relevant requires an open-mindset that continually absorbs and learn, distill the opportunities and have the will to change and skill to execute,” she explained.