Would you like some cooking oil with that dress?

Would you like some cooking oil with that dress?
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Walk into any fashion store at Jurong Point Shopping Centre and you may be given some cooking oil with your purchase.

The suburban mall is fighting back against competition such as new Jurong malls Jem and Westgate; online retailing; as well as what its management calls "headwinds in the retail industry".

It has rolled out a slew of measures in recent months, although the jury is still out on them.

Every shopper who spends at least $80 at any of the 130 fashion stores at the six-storey mall gets a free grocery item - in a campaign that will run until Sept 27.

The campaign, a tie-up with food manufacturer Lam Soon, started two weeks ago and is expected to cost the mall management $300,000. So far, about 3,000 items, ranging from pasta to cooking oil, have been given out.

In April, Jurong Point vouchers worth $1 million were stuffed into the mailboxes of residents in the area. The vouchers, worth $20 each, came with no strings attached.

A new $1.2 million overhead bridge on the third floor of the mall, linking it to Frontier Community Centre, which houses Jurong West Public Library, will open in October.

And since last year, the mall management has spent about $75,000 to train 121 employees of its tenants in areas such as visual merchandising and customer service.

"We wanted to make sure shoppers have a good experience here. Tenants told us that they wanted to improve, but didn't seem to know how, so we stepped in," said the mall's senior marketing communications manager Camie Chua.

She said its fashion tenants were struggling, adding that "practically everyone" has seen sales slip by a double-digit percentage quantum in the past year.

The smaller stores have been affected most adversely and a small rental rebate was extended to each of the mall's 420 tenants earlier this year, she said.

Sun Summer Footwear on the third floor sells an average of 25 pairs of shoes daily - a 30 per cent drop from the same time last year.

Business is so bad that it closed its other outlet in the mall earlier this month, despite having cut its prices recently. Slippers are its cheapest item at $3.90, while the most expensive are flats at $42.90.

"I think it's because people are going online to buy things. There are also many choices everywhere," said store manager Pan Ning, 43.

"We are barely breaking even. This year has been the worst. And I don't know what else to do, our prices are already so low, we can't lower them any further."

Customers The Straits Times interviewed said the free grocery items would not entice them to buy more fashion items. "If I need to buy some clothes, I won't do it because of the groceries," said housewife Mary Wong, 45, a mother of one.

Another shopper, retiree Sim Eak Kui, 67, said: "I won't buy anything I don't need to get a free grocery item that's so cheap.

"But the new overhead bridge will be really good. I can use it when it rains and I won't have to use the ground-floor junction, where there are many cars."


This article was first published on August 28, 2015.
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