Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Desert Amid A Metropolis

The Central, situated at the picturesque Clarke Quay, is not your typical Singapore shopping mall. 

In my recent visit to that shopping mall, I felt that I was somewhere in Australia- a shopping Siberia after 5pm. Just that the difference is most of the shops in this mall were still open.

I cannot fathom how on earth this mall is still standing in this competitive environment we call Singapore. 

My last count of the number of people actually strolling around in that mall was five. And all of them were window shopping.

If you haven't stepped into this mall before, let me give you a bit of enlightenment. The Central is basically Japan transformed into a shopping mall. Everything in that mall has some link to Japan. From the clothes, to the food, to the shop names and even our very own local coffeeshop, Ya Kun has some form of Japan ingrained onto it.

I wonder what Mr Ya Kun must have thought of this idea. Considering that his stall started out in 1926 and went through the Japanese occupation. Maybe this shop at The Central is a modern day reincarnation. 

Anyway, I digress. 

The Central is nowhere as bustling as the streets of Shibuya. If you half expect to find teens with outlandish (read horribly dyed) hairstyles thronging this place, you are in for a huge disappointment. You will also not spot those famous checkered skirts, uniform clad Japanese school girls prancing about and giggling in  glee while doing your shopping. 

What you will find are bored shop tenants. Shops which do not even have any tenants tending to it. Shops which have their stuff going at a massive 60% discount. 

And still, you will be hard pressed to find anyone coming anywhere near these shops. 

My quick tour round these shops even found one bored shop tenant watching his flat screen LCD TV into his shop. A languid glance towards my direction represented his interest at my arrival into his shop. And it was back to watching his TV again. 

I wonder how any of these shops are still existing. 

The restaurants, thankfully, have some sign of human life. 

Waruku and Ma Maison, two of the must-trys at The Central, are still packed to the brim with hungry souls. 

Take a walk around the rest of the eateries and I discovered that this place isn't the ghost town that I thought it was. 

Nevertheless, I believe The Central is still heading for financial ruin. I am not sure if this ghostly experience is down to the current economic crisis. Or simply just because it is a weekday. 

But in the lead up to Christmas, the least you expect is to see some form of life and not a visual representation of human life on Mars right here in this mall. The fact that it can't even attract a Christmas crowd raises many questions about the viability of this shopping mall's existence. 

The lack of shoppers certainly can't be down to its location. Situated just a stone throw from Raffles place and smacked right in the middle of party-crazy Clarke Quay, this mall is definitely in a prime location to attract shoppers. 

The investment to spruce up this mall must also be humongous. The management even got in a circus group to perform for free. 

Alas, as much as the name of this shopping mall proclaims to be, it still isn't very much central on the minds of many Singaporean shoppers.  

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