From bohemian mall to mani-pedi hub

From bohemian mall to mani-pedi hub

SINGAPORE - The Holland Road Shopping Centre has become a pale shadow of its former self, with shops changing hands or staying empty, and an influx of nail bars that have turned it into a manicure-pedicure hub.

The three-storey landmark in Holland Village used to draw crowds looking for souvenirs, curios, furniture, art and antiques, as well as festive decorations, clothes for big-sized people and shoes for those with large feet.

It attracted expatriates, Singaporeans and tourists.

Built in 1972, it is looking decidedly run-down and, at times, deserted. Some familiar tenants are still there - like the Thambi Magazine Store, Cold Storage supermarket and Lim's Arts and Living.

But the past two years have seen several others move out, including the popular EMF Bookstore, and at least five vacant units have "for rent" signs on their glass doors.

Several tenants blamed the decline on the lack of variety among the shops.

More than a dozen nail bars, some of which also offer beauty services, have sprouted in recent years.

Many tenants say they depend on long-time customers as the walk-in crowd picks up only on weekends.

Ms Jasmine Ng, owner of picture framing shop D'Artist Gallery, has been at the centre since 1987 and relies mainly on her corporate clients. She said new tenants hoping for walk-in customers would find it tough to survive.

The owner of an arts and crafts shop, who declined to be named, said he sometimes does not make a sale for three to five days.

The nail parlours seem to be getting by despite the competition.

Ms Clarice Lim, 33, owner of The Kuching Nail Spa, said she moved in seven months ago and business is brisk with 10 to 15 visitors on weekdays and up to 30 a day on weekends.

But competition has driven her to run regular promotions for her customers, 80 per cent of whom are Caucasians and 35 per cent are men.

The 95,831 sq ft complex was built by Song Lim Holdings in 1972 and sits on 40,000 sq ft of freehold land. It has 111 strata-titled units and no fewer than 78 owners free to set their own rents.

Despite its faded appearance and dwindling crowds, rents remain high. Ms Ng said she used to rent a 400 sq ft unit for $6,000 a month. When her landlord wanted $500 more, she moved to a 238 sq ft unit for $3,500 a month.

She said it is common for tenants to "move from shop to shop" as owners raise rents, and the rent for units on the same floor can differ by as much as $800.

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