Last Sunday, preschool teacher Jessica Ong and her family decided to check out OneKM, a new mall in Tanjong Katong that opened last month.
"Now we have another shopping option near our home where we can have a nice dinner at one of the restaurants or do some window shopping," says the 44-year-old, who lives in Eunos with her husband and daughter.
With the recent opening of OneKM and other malls in the east, such as Bedok Mall, she notes that she "hardly ever goes to town nowadays".
She adds: "Everything can be found here. I don't have to dress up and change trains to get to Orchard."
The new shopping centre, which will open officially on Sunday, is one of four suburban malls which have sprung up within the past three months.
Like OneKM, Seletar Mall in Sengkang, hillV2 in Upper Bukit Timah and East Village in Bedok are providing more shopping and dining options to residential enclaves, saving people a trip to town.
There are more heartland malls to come. The refurbished Eastpoint in Simei is set to reopen on Tuesday and mega warehouse retail store Big Box in Jurong East is slated to open within the next two months.
Dr Lynda Wee, an adjunct associate professor specialising in retail management at Nanyang Technological University, says the trend of mall developers heading to the heartland is inevitable.
She says: "There is only so much land in Orchard Road. With residential areas being built up with schools, offices and hospitals, they became attractive catchment areas to build heartland malls."
She points out that suburban malls started to come into their own when brands typically found mainly in the town area ventured beyond the Orchard Road belt.
This was the case when Japanese casualwear giant Uniqlo chose to open its first Singapore store at Tampines 1 mall in 2009.
Big names such as Books Kinokuniya, H&M and Sephora also opened their first suburban outlets at Jem in Jurong East when the mall opened last year.
Dr Wee notes that towns such as Tampines and Jurong East were identified as self-contained regional centres two decades ago with homes, offices and shops where people can live, work and play,
"With a more diverse group of people in the area, malls now have to cater to their lifestyle needs. Hence bigger, more upmarket international brands have been brought in," she says.
Unlike the heartland malls of yesteryear which served mainly residents within the neighbourhood, the new kids on the retail block now appeal to a "wider catchment" and thus have to offer more in terms of commercial facilities, says Dr Chua Yang Liang, Jones Lang LaSalle's head of research for South-east Asia.
"For suburban malls to succeed these days, the positioning of the mall is very important. Developers have to understand the immediate catchment area and who the consumers are."
Last year, Jurong East became the suburbs' answer to Orchard Road when Jem and Westgate opened in June and December, giving shoppers access to international brands such as H&M and Kate Spade Saturday. The area now boasts four malls, including JCube and IMM.
Says Dr Wee: "Shoppers can now get the Orchard Road experience at their doorstep. With the population expected to rise to six million by 2020, people will want to have all their shopping needs met in their neighbourhood."
This saves them from having to jostle with the growing crowds in popular shopping spots in town.