Robinsons ‘in talks’ to lease Borders space

Business Times: Tue, Oct 11

RETAILER Robinsons is said to be in talks to lease the former Borders space at Wheelock Place. The L-shaped space on the ground floor comes to about 29,000 square feet.

The retail group already has a presence at Wheelock Place – it operates a Marks & Spencer (M&S) outlet of about 15,000 sq ft spread over two basement levels of the building, which has an underground link to Orchard MRT Station.

Market watchers note that the group has been in expansion mode. This year, it opened the plush Robinsons Marina Bay Sands, a 20,800-sq-ft space comprising two lavish boutiques selling lingerie, and fashion, beauty and accessories. This is the third store operating under the Robinsons banner in Singapore, after The Centrepoint on Orchard Road and Raffles City.

The Robinsons Group, controlled by Al-Futtaim of the United Arab Emirates, operates the Robinsons, John Little, M&S, Coast, and River Island stores in Singapore.

In a departure from past policy of confining the Robinsons banner to city locations here, the retailer will open an 85,000-sq-ft Robinsons store in the suburbs, at Lend Lease’s Jem mall which is expected to be completed next to Jurong East MRT Station in the second quarter of 2013.

Market watchers say that it makes sense for Robinsons to secure a second location on Orchard Road to prepare for the eventual possibility of a collective sale and/or redevelopment of the space occupied by Robinsons at The Centrepoint.

Word in the market is that the group had earlier mooted opening a Robinsons department store at The Heeren – comprising mostly the three-level space formerly occupied by fashion and accessories store ALT – but decided not to go ahead with it.

The former Borders spot at Wheelock Place, boasting street frontage, offers a more prominent location, note industry players.

Before Borders opened its store in 1997, the spot was part of the former Lane Crawford department store.

A retail industry observer suggests that the Robinsons group could subsume its existing M&S operations at Wheelock Place into a potential new Robinsons department store – much like how the Robinsons department store at The Centrepoint flows into an M&S outlet on the second level.

Property analysts note that it makes sense for Wheelock to lease out the entire first-storey space to a strong operator than to carve out the area into smaller units with a view to commanding higher per square foot rental rates, as the latter route would shrink the total lettable area after setting aside space for corridors and other circulation areas.

‘Also, while prime units such as those fronting the street will command top dollar rents, there will also be other less attractive units inside,’ said Knight Frank group managing director Danny Yeo. ‘Then, the landlord will have to deal with many more tenants, and the odd vacancy.

‘If Robinsons does open a store at Wheelock Place, it will form a strong magnet for this point in the quandrangle along with ION Orchard, Tangs and Shaw House/Centre.’

Shaw Properties is expected to revamp Shaw House/Shaw Centre.
Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd


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