More buzz in Orchard with at least 6 more months of Pedestrian Night

More buzz in Orchard with at least 6 more months of Pedestrian Night

Its six-month trial is up, but Pedestrian Night on Orchard Road is here to stay for at least another six months.

The event, which closes off a 660m stretch of road on the popular shopping strip on the first Saturday of the month, was to have ended for good last month. It will be revived from July to December.

The decision to continue, said the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba), was made based on several factors: Its popularity with the public, the Singapore Tourism Board's (STB) commitment to funding it, and the potential for members to convert footfall into business opportunities.

Each event drew an average of 50,000 people to Orchard Road, double the footfall on a regular Saturday. An STB survey of 600 visitors over three Pedestrian Nights also found that more than 70 per cent would return for the event.

But the event, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars each time, improved the sales of only some of Orba's 111 members - mostly streetside operations such as cafes, fast-food outlets and convenience stores. Several high-end retailers and shops located inside malls even saw sales fall.

Despite this, Orba executive director Steven Goh said 70 per cent of members supported the event's continuation.

Orba, made up of a loose affiliation of Orchard businesses, is working with malls to extend opening hours till 11pm. It is convincing shops to dangle deals. Events in malls will also be organised so that retailers inside will not miss out.

The STB, which foots most of the bill for Pedestrian Night, also announced yesterday that it is prepared to co-fund activities that retailers or mall developers want to roll out during the event.

But Mr R. Dhinakaran, managing director of Jay Gee Melwani Group, which runs apparel store Denizen and health retailer Holland & Barrett here, is unconvinced. Customer numbers at his 15 Orchard Road stores fell by an average of 20 per cent during Pedestrian Night, he said, adding:"We have no plans to open late again; we cannot afford it with the manpower shortage."

However, department store Robinsons at The Heeren is keen.

"Any initiative to create buzz in Orchard Road is good in the long run," said a spokesman. "It's costly but we really hope more retailers will open late too, so there is more impact."

This article was first published on April 8, 2015.
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