Why Bugis Junction is Still Booming

Completed in 1995, and first owned by BCH Investments Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Keppel Land, Bugis Junction is located in the junction of Middle Street, Victoria Street and North Bridge Road right in the middle of the downtown core area of Singapore. Occupying a Gross Floor Area of 578,000 sq ft, the mall has some 207 shops over 5 levels, and 648 carparks spaces catering to those who drive.

Bugis Junction is one of the holdings of CapitaMalls Trust, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), and is currently managed by CapitaMalls, a leading mall management company in Singapore which is public listed.

I've always wondered why Bugis Junction managed to succeed and thrive fabulously, remaining on the cutting edge of consumerism while many newer malls have fallen by the wayside. How does it manage to keep itself going on in the hypercompetitive retail market in Singapore? Here are some of my observations:

1) Location, Location, Location. While Bugis Junction isn't situated in the popular Orchard Road or Marina/Suntec shopping belts, it sits right smack atop the Bugis MRT station and is well served by many buses. The mall is also easily accessible by the highways (either East Coast Parkway or Ayer Rajah Expressway).

2) Integration and linkages with surroundings. Other than being connected via an underpass to the Bugis MRT station, Bugis Junction is also located fairly close to other adjoining areas like the new Bugis Street, Bugis Village, the Albert Complex/Fu Lu Shou/Sim Lim Square malls, and the heavily visited temples at Waterloo Street. This helps to form a natural human traffic belt in the area, with positive spillover effects.

3) Focusing on One's Core Audience. As a weekend hangout for young adults and youths, Bugis Junction has stuck fairly close to its guns in managing its tenant mix to cater to this crowd. I love the array of snacks and takeaway food options in its basement, offering the latest and trendiest grub for the Gen Ys and Millenials. The selection of boutiques, shops and salons are also pitched at this segment.

4) Access to Weekday Office Crowds and Hotel Guests. With multiple offices in its office complex, the shopping mall benefits from a weekday lunch crowd unlike malls located in exclusive shopping belts. The adjoining Inter Continental hotel also helps to provide much needed foot traffic to its tenants.

5) A great design and layout. Featuring Singapore's first glass-covered, air-conditioned shopping streets (quirkily named after the old streets themselves like Hylam Street), Bugis Junction's architectural design preserves the romance of the old shophouses without the heat and humidity. Illuminated by natural light, the atrium area gives one the illusion of being on a sidewalk cafe where one can observe the action on the street.

6) Choosing the right anchor tenants. This is probably one of the oldest trick in the shopping centre management book. Some of the more established tenants in Bugis include BHG Bugis, Shaw Cineplex, VirtuaLand, Cold Storage, Food Junction, and of course Books Kinokuniya. These branded outlets help to add to the allure of the complex and draw customers of their own without subtracting from its brand equity.

7) A Colourful Legacy. Older Singaporeans will recall that the Bugis Street area where Bugis Junction now sits on used to be a popular venue for transvestite shows and night life activities. While the shopping mall is nothing like its past, having that colourful past helps to create that mystique behind the brand.

Naturally, the above isn't exhaustive, but I believe that they constitute some of the key reasons why Bugis Junction remains a crowd puller, year after year.

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