Retail in Asia


Yeo Mui Hong, chief executive of Singapore’s Ion Orchard, on driving in-store traffic

Home to some of the world’s top luxury and high street brands, Singapore mall Ion Orchard is one of the Lion City’s premier leisure retail destinations. 

SEE ALSO: Meet four types of APAC consumers driving physical retail’s comeback

Conveniently located at the heart of Orchard Road, the mall welcomed a number of new retail tenants and culinary destinations in 2023, and recently kicked off its spring-summer campaign with a garden and waterfall installation headlined by an eight-minute light show planned for five weekends over the season.

Here, Retail in Asia speaks with Yeo Mui Hong, chief executive officer of Ion Orchard, on the mall’s tenant and entertainment strategies and the future of shopping in Asia.

Left: Ion Orchard chief executive Yeo Mui Hong. Source: Ion Orchard
RiA: How has Ion Orchard bounced back since Singapore’s reopening?

Mui Hong: The reopening of borders has led to more inbound visitors [and] has allowed us to resume events and brand activations. These factors have led to a steady increase in foot traffic to the mall and stores at ION Orchard. 

To provide a holistic experience for our shoppers, ION Orchard has always aimed to go beyond providing the standard retail experience.

[For example] Ion Orchard launched the Barbie House of Dreams, a month-long multi-concept exhibit that showcased over 600 unique Barbie dolls from local Barbie collector Jian Yang’s personal collection. With this exhibit, we aimed to bring together fashion, art, and lifestyle to create a multi-sensory experience for shoppers. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for local Barbie fans to enjoy this extensive collection – all in one place, in the heart of Orchard Road.

Source: Ion Orchard
RiA: Ion Orchard has also introduced several new tenants. Can you share a bit on the mall’s tenant strategy?

Mui Hong: We are constantly refreshing our offerings to delight our shoppers and members with a variety of new and latest shopping experiences. We have always cultivated strong relationships with successful and emerging brands, and they recognise Ion Orchard as one of Singapore’s most iconic and popular malls.

As a result, many have opened their flagship boutiques here and offer exclusive experiences or unique products. For instance, The Onitsuka, Onitsuka Tiger’s new dress shoe line, recently opened its first Southeast Asia flagship boutique in Singapore here.

We’ve also recently welcomed a suite of new fashion and lifestyle brands. These include French luxury shoe designer Christian Louboutin and luxurious jewellery store D&A Jewellery.

Our Gentle Monster, Hugo, Lee Hwa Jewellery and Spanish fast fashion clothing retailer Massimo Dutti have also been newly revamped and reopened with innovative concepts, offering a unique shopping experience – Gentle Monster’s store doubles up as an art space, drawing the curious and the bold, while Hugo has a specially curated playlist in-store, featuring the latest hits and timeless classics from local and international artists. At the new Massimo Dutti store, shoppers will be greeted by an all-white space with earth-toned furniture, which is a different concept from the brand’s usual dark interiors.

We also want shoppers to be able to indulge and bond with their friends and loved ones over coffee and treats with new Singapore F&B brands that will appeal to different tastes and preference. Our latest additions include Surrey Hills Grocer, Puzzle Coffee, and Le Matin Patisserie, a French café known for its delicious croissants, cakes, and pastries.

RiA: The mall has an ongoing spring-summer campaign. Aside from physical activations such as this, how do you connect with your consumers?

Mui Hong: We are dedicated to creating memorable experiences for our shoppers and constantly seek new ways to keep shoppers interested with a constant stream of new ‘retail-tainment’ experiences, Ion Orchard-only exclusives, or by bringing in new experiential exhibitions and events.  

In recent years, we have introduced new facets to our digital experience with gamification and hyper reality content across our seasonal campaigns to keep our shoppers engaged. 

On the gamification front, we have a digital red packets game for Chinese New Year, a digital gachapon called World of Rewards where shoppers can engage with via a physical machine in the mall during Black Friday and Christmas, and a Instagram filter game during our Love Our World Sustainability campaign. We are also committed to continuing our sustainability push, which rewards our members when they make more eco-conscious decisions in the mall. 

In addition, we actively promote and showcase green collections from our brands. On top of that, we also have our own #IONCreators whom we worked with to curate fun and engaging videos across various touch points on our social media platforms and in-mall digital screens. 

The Ion art gallery is a unique space within the mall that provides our shoppers with an integrated mall experience. It has a structured art and design programme, which is focused on the exhibition of modern and contemporary art and design, and offers visitors the opportunity to savour a diverse range of visual arts, including multi-media and digital art. 

RiA:  Can you share how you plan to continue to attract foot traffic?
The Gentle Monster store at Ion Orchard. Source: Gentle Monster

Mui Hong: Ion Orchard is proud to be recognised as a premier lifestyle destination in Singapore, offering a diverse range of stores and experiences that cater to different tastes and preferences. 

The mall is committed to offering unique shopping experiences and ensuring a constant stream of retail-tainment experiences, including pop-ups, multi-sensory exhibitions or events, and exclusive customisation services.

Shoppers, especially the new generation of spenders, are constantly looking for new and unique items such as collaborations brands – including the Kai x Gucci collaboration which was available exclusively in the Ion Orchard store in Singapore. The Gentle Garden Pop-up by Gentle Monster was also held here in Ion Orchard as one of the five selected cities around the world. 

RiA: Are you seeing any exciting trends emerge in the mall landscape in Asia?

Mui Hong: The retail landscape in Asia is rapidly evolving, with the growth of e-commerce and changing consumer preferences. 

Ion Orchard has challenged the traditional notions of retail by infusing unique and captivating experiences and technology into the mall’s offerings. As retail continues to venture in the direction of integrated online and offline experiences, we make it a point to tap digital channels to reach and engage its followers. 

As part of elevating shoppers’ experience, the mall also launched a revamped Ion Orchard Mobile app earlier this year and introduced Easy Earn as part of its loyalty programme. 

Ion Orchard also collaborates with brands to introduce novel and differentiated ‘retail-tainment’ experiences that shoppers cannot find online, such as pop-ups, multi-sensory exhibitions, or events, as well as exclusive customisation services. Ion Orchard also refreshes its tenant mix regularly by bringing in new brands, updating store and floor layouts, or encouraging brands to offer something new and exclusive.

Sustainability and environmental responsibility are also becoming increasingly important to consumers, and malls in Asia are responding by adopting eco-friendly practices, such as using renewable energy sources, implementing waste reduction programs, and promoting sustainable fashion.

SEE ALSO: China dominates luxury retail openings in 2022, wider Asia region store numbers lift

Source: Ion Orchard

We previously launched the Love Our World sustainability campaign, which aims to educate shoppers on climate change, promote green efforts such as reduce, reuse, and recycle, and encourage shoppers to embark on a sustainable journey. Ion Orchard has also partnered Insect Feed Technologies, a company that uses black soldier flies as a decomposer to break down food into a material that can be used as fertiliser at vegetable farms to recycle food waste at the mall.