Tough times at Far East Plaza

Tough times at Far East Plaza
The last major revamp at the 33-year-old mall was in 2005, when it spent $6.53 million to improve its floors, ceilings and external walkways.

Far East Plaza, once a popular haunt for teenagers, seems to have fallen out of favour.

The Straits Times, which visited the mall several times over the past month, saw more than 10 stores on the first floor with their shutters down and displaying "For Lease" signs.

While the eateries on levels one, four and five were bustling during lunch hour, few customers ventured into the shops.

Tenants said business has slowed by as much as 50 per cent, compared to a decade ago.

"There are simply too many mega malls which have opened in the past five years, and it is the norm to see retail tenants change every two to three years," said the mall's centre manager, Mr Kenneth Lim.

For 33-year-old Far East Plaza, adapting to the competition will not be easy.

For a major revamp to be carried out, the majority of the strata-titled mall's more than 500 individual owners will need to agree to it, which would be challenging, Mr Lim acknowledged.

The last major revamp was in 2005, when it spent $6.53 million to improve its floors, ceilings and external walkways.

Three years earlier, department store Metro vacated its 50,000 sq ft space on the first floor. It was replaced by Level One, a warren of shops selling apparel mainly targeted at teenagers.

Times have changed, said Ms Joanne Teo, 32, who has been working at Level One clothing store Red 2 for the past 13 years.

"When Level One opened, Ion and 313@somerset hadn't opened yet. H&M, which also sells cheap clothes, also hadn't come to Singapore," she said, adding that footfall at Level One has fallen by 50 per cent over the years.

Another of Level One's pioneer clothing stores, Code Red, may move to a suburban mall if business does not improve, said an owner, Madam Joanna Tie, 50.

Clothing shops on the other floors of the five-storey mall are not faring any better.

However, the nail and hair salons still enjoy a steady stream of customers.

Ms Kelly Chong, 36, part-owner of hair salon Queen's Cut on the fifth floor, said her business relies on regulars, who make up 70 per cent of her customers.

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