Whenever I need to buy something—whether it’s a new laptop, a pair of shoes or a McDonald’s meal—I inevitably turn to the Internet. Now that you can buy virtually anything online, often at more attractive prices, putting in the effort to battle crowds to buy what you need in many of the retail stores in Singapore just doesn’t make sense.
So does that mean brick-and-mortar stores are going the way of the dinosaurs? Not necessarily.
Experts are now touting experiential retail (i.e. turning shopping into an experience that’s about more than just buying stuff) as the latest fad to get customers out of their homes and into retailers’ sweet embrace.
Want to try it out for yourself? Here are seven local retail stores that also serve up interesting experiences:
Communal kitchen at Downtown Gallery
6A Shenton Way
Downtown Gallery isn’t a single retail shop, but rather a shopping mall in the middle of the CBD with the usual eateries and retail outlets. But what sets it apart from other malls is the fact that it’s also equipped with a communal kitchen.
Singaporeans constantly lament that they lack time or space to cook. Thanks to the communal kitchen, we now have access to top-of-the-range facilities like ovens, stoves, and even a microwave and wine chiller. You can bring your own ingredients or buy them on-site, and there’s also a chef stationed there to dole out tips.
You’ve got to pay $45 an hour to use their kitchen facilities, but if you’re in a group or need to organise a corporate event, it’s not terribly expensive.
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
10 Bayfront Avenue
Until 15 Oct 2017, Marina Bay Sands’ glitzy shopping mall will be home to a Virtual Closet. The pop-up installation designed to look like a walk-in wardrobe enables you to browse some of the latest collections in the mall by swiping a screen.
If you see something you like, you can then check which retailer at The Shoppes you can find it at, and then make a beeline for the store without having to wander aimlessly through the mall for hours.
809 French Road Level 3 Kitchener Complex
Mahota Commune is a retailer of organic food. But it sure doesn’t look like one. That’s because this sprawling retail space also houses a restaurant, a cafe, an events space, an activity studio, its very own TCM clinic as well as a DIY workshop that customers are free to use.
You can buy fresh ingredients and then have them prepared directly in the kitchen. The DIY workshop sells and loans material and tools so you can try to create your own wooden creations, and also conducts classes. Over at the studio, regular classes such as yoga and meditation are regularly organised.
What’s more, there are many free events organised at Mahota Commune’s various spaces, including wine tasting and food sampling sessions.
75 Duxton Road
If there’s one thing that’ll get Singaporeans out of their homes, it’s hipster cafes. Monument lifestyle is a cafe-clothing store hybrid, with a stylish menswear and accessories retail store operating alongside a chic cafe.
Add to that the fact that everything in the store, whether in the cafe or the retail section, is supremely instagrammable and you’ve got a recipe for success.
74 Jalan Kelabu Asap
Yet another cafe-retail hybrid, this time in the Chip Bee Gardens / Holland Village area. The retailer in question is Monocle—yes, the magazine which has become the yuppie-hipster-millennial’s bible.
The store sells not only the brand’s publications, but a bunch of other products, many the result of collaborations between Monacle and other brands, which include apparel, bags, homeware and stationery. Oh, and you can also get some amazing coffee there too, of course.
2 Orchard Turn ION Orchard #B1-11 / 391B Orchard Road #03-12B Ngee Ann City / 79 Duxton Road
No matter what you think of paying $100 for a pair of leggings, the stores of Lululemon, the infamous upmarket yoga attire brand, might still be worth visiting.
That’s because they frequently organise classes at their various stores. These classes are immensely popular and tickets get snapped up in a flash. They usually publicise their classes on their Facebook page, and you’ll find everything from the various types of yoga to boxing and handstands. As far as retail stores in Singapore go, they’re definitely doing something right in being able to consistently attract a crowd.
231 Bain St Bras Basah Complex #02-25
Before the cafe/retail hybrid concept became such a fad, Cat Socrates was already existing quietly in its little corner at Bras Basah Complex.
This whimsical little store, which has been around since 2008, sells home décor, books, CDs, stationery and homeware, all with a twee twist. (They’ve since expanded and now have another branch in Katong.)
There’s a resident cat as well as a tiny cafe operating in a corner of the shop, which means you can sit down for a drink and hope the furry feline comes your way.
Do you know of any other stores offering an experiential retail experience? Share your recommendations in the comments!