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Sentosa's new themed shops offer unique shopping experience
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Sentosa’s new themed shops offer unique shopping experience

A new generation of themed retail outlets has opened for business in Sentosa, Singapore’s popular resort island. RETAIL ASIA has details on two of the stores.

Operated by Sentosa Leisure Group, two of the four new stores on Singapore’s resort island of Sentosa were finalists on the SRA (Singapore Retailers Association) Awards — The Merlion Shop (finalist for best retail concept of the year) and The Quartermaster (finalist for best new entrant of the year).

The four shops are each themed to the attraction of the area in which it is sited, representing the first few of the next generation of themed shops that will be developed on the island.
The Merlion Shop, a complete revamp from the original store, is a significant step forward in themed tourism retail marketing, offering a uniquely exciting experience, said Andrew Koh, director of retail, Sentosa Leisure Group.

The 2,800sqf (total gross area) store is located within the 37m-tall Merlion tower, which underwent a six-month upgrade and re-opened to the public in June this year. The upgrading included a more focused theme on the mythical nature of the Merlion and its underwater environment.

“With these changes, it became evident that the retail outlet sited within the attraction required a complete re-design, and re-evaluation of the brand offering, experience and spatial communication to be relevant to the mythical Merlion and underwater themes, as well as the expectations of the visitors. Concurrently, the commercially viability was paramount,” said Koh.

“Our studies and research established that while visitors liked attractions to be heavily themed and immersive, integrated retail elements should be more clearly focused on quality and exclusive product lines. The theme should be complementary and suggestive of the relevant ambience rather than distractive and attention grabbing.

“Of course, over the years, many establishments across Singapore have fallen into the trap of building extravagantly themed environments at the expense of the products. Sentosa saw this as an opportunity to get this balance right and to offer to Singapore a quality experience that could be enjoyed and appreciated by all,” he added.

The evolution of the experiential journey on arrival at The Merlion Shop, therefore, became a place suggestive of impressive sea life and creatures.

Vibrant graphic elements and colourful ‘larger-than-life’ tropical sea-life models were carefully selected, and strategically placed to provide a refreshing look and feel to the space, as if you are shopping underwater. When entering the shop, visitors are immediately greeted with the warm colour of sea corals, suspended and moving light treatments, and overhead-fanning reflective blue-wave elements.

Large graphic image prints of marine creatures and the infinitesimal influence of mirror panels on the walls further enhance the underwater ambience. Strongly-coloured metal gondolas and the painted concrete floor, subtly resembling the seabed, combine with an over-abundance of air-conditioning to exaggerate the cool sensations attributed to being under the sea.

As part of the new story line and direction, a number of exclusive product lines, along with Baby Merlions, have been included, as well as the introduction of Mercubs and the Sand Dollar, a form of token. Besides adding new characters to the story, they serve as a stronger link between the attraction and the retail component, explained Koh.

The store has allocated 1,000sqf to Delifrancé to operate a cafe within the premises.
The Quartermaster, located within the Fort Siloso complex, is a 1,100sqf military themed shop. Occupying approximately 55ft of frontage and a depth of about 20ft, the shop is themed to showcase products related to the military and Singapore’s military heritage.

“The shop is built to resemble a bunker with raw cement walls and ceiling, and exposed brickwork, and the shop front is finished as one expansive glass wall that entices visitors to look within, as though looking at an ‘untouchable’ exhibit,” said Koh.

A graphic treatment to the glass depicting outlines of military images takes on a stylised approach to the topic while suggesting the contents that can be found within. Upon entering the space, the subtly-angled ceiling that slopes down from front to rear, where it meets the deliberately sloping rear wall, affects the physicality of the space to give it a more closeted ambience typically associated with traditional military quartermaster spaces, that is, function most definitely proceeding form.

Much of the shelving and other fixtures are in grey metal with loose fixtures on castor wheels for better merchandise presentation flexibility. Dramatically-angled concrete display plinths appear to erupt from the floor and give the space a contemporary constructionist appeal.
This is representative of a large proportion of the product offering, which is focused on model making. The predominantly grey tone of raw cement and metal surfaces contrasts significantly with the brighter packaging of the merchandise, thus ensuring that it will not only be more outstanding but also be the focus of any visit.

The main target market for this store are the nation’s school children as Fort Siloso is part of the primary school syllabus, local families and enthusiasts, as well as tourists interested in Singapore’s military stories.

Furthermore, the use of stylised gondolas that at first glance appears as industrial trolleys but immediately present a very modern appeal with the use of yellow glass shelves and integrated outline of a life-sized soldier. The army theme is further explored with the use of semi-transparent graphic panels of stylised army camouflage motif at strategic positions throughout the space.

The shop has developed a merchandise mix to appeal to children and adult hobbyists and collectors, as well as souvenirs developed in-house for all visitors. This ranges from a wide selection of die-cast metal planes, tanks and others, both in toy and collector grades, model kits, a wide selection of toy guns and accessories and similar items.

Specific to Singapore’s military history are a very comprehensive selection of books, postcards reproduced from the Fort Siloso archives, and some handmade replicas of SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) weapons and equipment with more items to be added when they become available.

The Quartermaster store was officially opened in September this year.

Traffic has increased by 20% or more at the Merlion tower and Fort Siloso since the two attractions were upgraded. This has translated into an increase of over 80% in sales at The Merlion Shop, which works out to almost a trebling in sales per sqf, said Koh. There was no comparison for The Quartermaster as it is a new store.

Sentosa Leisure Group’s two other new stores are Kiki & Co, a small outlet at the Fountain Garden; and Island Life, a beach and resort lifestyle shop at the new F&B and retail hub on Siloso Beach. There are plans to open a large store at the Images of Singapore attraction in May 2005.

Sentosa, which has embarked on a redevelopment plan, expects to attract eight million visitors a year and generates S$900 million (US$546.45 million) in revenue by 2012.

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