Retail in Asia


The new flagship: Inside the rise of the luxury duplex in Singapore

Since opening in 2010, Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands has evolved into a destination for business and leisure travellers. The integrated resort development features the largest hotel in the city with over 2,000 rooms and suites, and over the years it has built a compelling retail offering for luxury and premium brands to cater to locals and tourists alike.

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Home to 270 boutiques and dining concepts, Marina Bay Sands’ The Shoppes achieved 99.7 percent retail occupancy by the second quarter of 2022, validating a strategy to focus on the luxury sector as well as increasing its local clientele. 

Hazel Chan, senior vice president of retail at Marina Bay Sands, says The Shoppes is now home to a grand assembly of 19 luxury duplexes today, housing brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Tiffany, Cartier, Hermès, Bvlgari, and Dior.

“Luxury shopping is no longer a simple one-time transaction, it is a relationship that is fostered with shoppers and carefully nurtured through time,” Chan says. “For this to happen, boutiques must transform to present immersive experiences that enhance the discovery journey of customers and allow them to experience the brands more intimately.”

Hazel Chan, senior vice president of retail, Marina Bay Sands. Source: Marina Bay Sands

Here, Chan speaks to Retail in Asia on experiential retail and the growing demand for multi-storey luxury stores.

RiA: Within the frame of the last few years, consumer preferences and habits have evolved greatly. Could you share an overview of Marina Bay Sands’ post-Covid retail strategy?

Hazel Chan: The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands was more than ready to meet new demands post-Covid, having spent two years during the pandemic diversifying our tenant mix and acquiring new local luxury consumers. 

When travel was put to a halt, The Shoppes focused on cultivating our local clientele base by engaging them through meaningful ways and incentivising them to rediscover The Shoppes. One of the initiatives born out of the pandemic was the online Shopping Concierge, a first-of-its-kind on-demand service by any luxury shopping mall in Singapore. This hybrid online-to-offline ‘click-and-deliver’ platform allows shoppers to browse and reserve products from over 80 participating retailers and have them delivered directly to their home. The aim is to make luxury shopping a customised yet effortless journey – an endeavour that persists even in the post-Covid world. 

The last few years have been a turning point for The Shoppes as we sought new ways to cater to the evolving needs and preferences of our shoppers. We introduced brands that were new and trending, from relaxed luxury streetwear driven by pop culture demands to luxury home and living that had been brought to the fore by the pandemic. In anticipation of travel resumption, boutiques were also renewed with inviting concepts and layouts to attract both returning and new shoppers. 

Our retail strategy post-Covid hinges on two important factors – tenant mix integrity and tailored experiences – to ensure we deliver the pinnacle of luxury shopping in Singapore.

We are pleased to witness the fruits of our labour. In Q1 this year, The Shoppes maintained a high occupancy of 99.7 percent and saw revenues of USD53 million, with tenant sales per square foot reaching USD2,809. Global Blue data on tax-free tourist spends in Q1 2023 also showed The Shoppes capturing 36.4 percent of tax refund market share, with top source markets in China, Indonesia and Malaysia signifying our strong recovery post-Covid. 

RiA: How do you approach bolstering your tenant mix? 
Buccellati at The Shoppes. Source: Buccellati

Chan: The Shoppes boasts a strong stable of brands that resonate with every shopper profile.  In 2021, we welcomed prestigious home and living brands such as Frette, Hästens, Christofle, Silky Miracle and Baccarat amidst growing demand as people choose to stay in and entertain guests in the comfort of their own homes. 

Today, The Shoppes is poised to cater to rising demand for luxury watches and jewellery. Just last year, we debuted Sincere Haute Horlogerie (SHH), Tudor, Bell & Ross and Tag Hauer, adding on to the existing host of esteemed watch brands such as Patek Philippe, Franck Muller, Jaeger-LeCoultre and IWC Schaffhausen. 

Since Q4 2022, we have welcomed a steady stream of first-to-market retail concepts, including Amaffi’s first boutique in Asia Pacific, Acne Studios and Buccellati’s first boutiques in Southeast Asia, Grand Seiko’s first standalone and flagship in Singapore, as well as luxury eyewear Puyi Optical’s first store in Singapore. 

RiA: How is the retail journey evolving for luxury brands?

Chan: Luxury is all about authenticity and bespoke one-on-one service to result in an experiential retail journey. 

By complementing our curation of brands with a generous loyalty programme, we are able to provide high-quality, bespoke interactions tailored for different customer profiles.  These exclusive shopper privileges come in the form of in-store experiences, engaging events and first-hand access to limited edition pieces.

Come Q4, The Shoppes will be bringing back our signature kids’ fashion event ‘Little Luxury Stars’. Shoppers can also look forward to a 21-day fashion extravaganza featuring immersive fashion presentations, luxury trunk shows, private shopping experiences and more. These experiences, coupled with the upcoming expansion of our VIP services, will further strengthen our ‘premium to luxe’ positioning to cater to ultra-high net worth VIP clients. 

RiA: As clients return to in-person shopping, brick and mortar is poised for a resurgence. Can you share your observations on brands establishing stores in multi-storey formats? 
Dior’s flagship store at The Shoppes. Source: Jasper Yu/Marina Bay Sands

Chan: Over the years, we have seen more tenants with single units expand their retail footprint with duplex concepts, signifying a growing demand for more space as they reinvent client experiences through merchandise assortment and unique activations. 

The trend of multi-storey formats is set to gain further traction as brands challenge traditional brick-and-mortar configurations and get creative with their store layouts to ensure shoppers are always presented with something new. Luxury shopping is no longer a simple one-time transaction, it is a relationship that is fostered with shoppers and carefully nurtured through time. For this to happen, boutiques must transform to present immersive experiences that enhance the discovery journey of customers and allow them to experience the brands more intimately.  

At The Shoppes, brands such as Dior, Bottega Veneta and Gucci have recently refreshed their duplexes to incorporate new boutique concepts that are reminiscent of their iconic flagships in Europe. Weaving in their savoir-faire and house codes, duplexes at The Shoppes are visually captivating – each telling its own story. Our duplexes are distinctive, such as Apple’s impressive floating sphere and the first to sit directly on water, and Louis Vuitton’s Island Maison. These one-of-a-kind architectural landmarks put us on the map in establishing ourselves as Asia’s premier luxury shopping destination.

RiA: How do you think this format affects the customer experience, and are there implications on the overall brand mix of Marina Bay Sands?

Chan: Multi-storey store formats allow brands to get creative with space and present shoppers with a wider and more complete range of collections to browse. For brands, they stand to benefit from creating quality one-on-one interactions yet allowing customers to explore the boutiques at their own pace. 

For instance, The Shoppes is the only destination in Southeast Asia to house the entire Dior collection under one roof. The revamped Dior duplex – also the first in Singapore – connects shoppers from Dior Men on the first level to the women’s collection on the second level through the iconic stairways inspired by the 30 Montaigne store in Paris. 

Along the way, shoppers may view abstract artworks of local artist Tan Guo-Liang, reinforcing the close-knit relationship between the brand and the arts. Next door, Dior Beauty and its first standalone facial suite in Singapore, the Dior Prestige La Suite, present shoppers with the maison’s signatures across skincare, makeup and fragrance. Baby Dior’s only boutique in Southeast Asia also calls The Shoppes home.

These duplexes, often boasting the brands’ flagship concepts, complement our existing mix of more than 170 premium and high-end luxury brands in the mall, and is just one part in our multi-pronged approach to elevate the shopping experience and differentiate ourselves from our competitors. 

SEE ALSO: Grand Seiko opens in Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands

RiA: F&B concepts are now taking up more and more space in malls. How do you approach this at The Shoppes?

Chan: The integrated resort concept has proven to be a winning formula for The Shoppes. Being part of [it] means we welcome a global clientele, from leisure tourists and business travellers to arts and culture lovers. 

Source: % Arabica

Singapore is known for its vibrant food and beverage scene, and it is something that is evident at The Shoppes. Our unique location also allows us to present waterfront dining experiences with Bread Street Kitchen, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Le Noir, Sen of Japan and Da Paolo Gastronomia, just to name a few. Celebrity chef restaurants such as one-Michelin-starred Cut by Wolfgang Puck and the award-winning Mott 32 Singapore are also located within The Shoppes. 

Coffee and tea culture in Singapore has also been in the limelight in recent years. As such, we have expanded our coffee and tea offerings to include % Arabica, Bacha Coffee, and soon-to-open PS Café and Ralph’s Coffee, which will be the first in Singapore.