The last thing we need in Singapore is another H&M or Uniqlo. That’s what Orchard Road landlords are learning the hard way right now. The number of vacant units is making some of their once-bustling malls look ghostlier than the seventh month.
If you’re more into bargains than Burberry, prefer cheap stuff to Chanel and spend only on deals and not designer, you might be happy to know that Singapore’s budget malls, often nestled in the heartlands, are less glamorous than ION Orchard or Paragon, but a whole lot more interesting. Here are six of our favourites.
Golden Mile Complex
If you’re always flying to Bangkok in search of Singha beer, pad thai and Thai discos, just head on down to Golden Mile Complex. This Thai enclave is best known as the building from which many coach services leave for Malaysia.
Not only is it home to some of the most affordable and authentic Thai eateries in Singapore (Diandin Leluk is a firm favourite), there are also some appropriately dodgy Thai pubs. The highlight, however, is the huge Thai supermarket with everything from imported fresh vegetables to curry powders, sauces and snacks.
In the world of blogshops, those at the bottom of the ladder source for all of their products at City Plaza in the heart of Geylang. You might also be surprised to find that some of the more established online shopping sites in Singapore carry some items sourced there.
Most of the shops are wholesalers, meaning they sell in bulk and offer discounts the more items you buy. You can usually save money by buying two or three pieces from the same shop, so bring a friend along and shop together. Even when buying single pieces, however, you might still end up paying less than what the blogshops are charging.
This Chinatown complex looks like the sort of place your grandparents must have hung out at when they were “courting”. Unless you’re looking for a foot massage or a new massage chair for your aging spine, it’s tempting to give this place a miss.
Except that it’s actually a hipster’s paradise for those who know where to look. From shops selling vintage Ray Ban frames to a haberdasher that stocks retro pendants and charms, it’s a secret hipster hideout. Or maybe not so secret, given the presence of Lepark, the semi-new rooftop bar and restaurant.
Far East Plaza
While Far East Plaza’s heydays as a favourite hangout of 77th Street-loving ah bengs and ah lians are long over, it’s still one of Orchard Road’s more well-known alternative malls—and by “alternative”, we mean there isn’t a single H&M, Uniqlo, or Topshop in sight.
FEP’s mainstay has always been small independent boutiques, mostly selling clothes sourced from Bangkok, Korea and China, although lately shops have been closing left and right due to high rents, meaning FEP’s days as a teen hangout might be numbered.
Why pay full price for designer items when you can buy the same things at outlets for a fraction of the price? There’s no need to go all the way to JB to shop at a factory outlet store, either.
IMM at Jurong East might pale in comparison with flashier malls in the area like JEM and Westgate, but the place is actually bulging with outlets hawking brands such as Agnes B, Coach, Banana Republic and POLO Ralf Lauren.
For those who live in the East, Changi City Point is another outlet mall that offers a good selection of brands. These malls might not look as glamorous as Ngee Ann City, but who cares when you’re getting a bargain?
There isn’t a single person in Singapore who hasn’t heard of Mustafa, but few are really familiar with the maze-like layout of this 24-hour mall.
You can buy just about anything imaginable at Mustafa, from Rolex watches to Dove shampoo—and prices are often (though not always) cheaper than those offered at other retailers.
Some of the best buys at Mustafa are actually their specialty foods. You can find chia seeds, quinoa, specialty teas and even that elusive green tea Kit Kat from Japan at good prices. So the next time you feel like picking up any of the above together with a diamond ring / drone / Merlion statue, you know where to go.
Which are your favourite shopping malls in Singapore? Tell us in the comments!