Banner: Justin Hee

Orchard Road - The Street With The Richest Pickings

Though the nutmeg and fruit orchards that gave Orchard Road its name may long be gone, the famed tree-lined retail strip of Singapore continues to offer one of the world's premier shopping experiences and draws top names in retail and F&B offerings.

Orchard Road has more than 40 malls, six department stores and over 5,000 retail and food and beverage outlets. There are more on the way, even as 268 Orchard Road is edging towards completion.

While emerging rivals like Marina Bay and suburban malls might be enticing, Orchard Road is decidedly the place to see and be seen in Singapore. A bustling promenade, Orchard Road will continue to charm and thrill even the most jaded travellers. 
Orchard Road does make magic - from global brands to chic boutiques, from a stunning mix of glitzy malls to old-school merchants. Buskers entertain, ice-cream vendors hawk, and cafes and restaurants lure. It's just irresistible.

Shopping in Orchard Road remains a unique experience that can't be found elsewhere. Orchard Road is the street that is constantly reinventing itself.

Industry players cite events such as annual fashion extravaganza Fashion Steps Out and Pedestrian Night. Both are initiatives by the Orchard Road Business Association and the Singapore Tourism Board.

Malls owners are kept on their toes. To stay relevant, malls undergo facelift and revamps every now and then.
Six years after Mandarin Gallery was launched, it updated its tenancy mix to ensure  the mall remains relevant.

Mandarin Gallery had a $200 million facelift and opened in January 2010 with high-end shopping in mind. 

Shaw Centre and Shaw House completed their revamp in November.

Tangs started a $45 million revamp of its store in 2012.



International brands continue to make Orchard Road their first port of call in South-east Asia. Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M and American casual wear brand Abercrombie & Fitch opened mega-stores to much fanfare in 2011.
American sports apparel  Under Armour opened its first South-east Asia outlet at Orchard Gateway in May 2014.
French-Italian apparel and lifestyle brand Moncler will be launching its first South-east Asia stand-alone boutique in Ion Orchard.


Historical Past

Orchard Road has always been an important street: It connected the residential area of Tanglin to the business and commercial market place of High Street and Raffles Place. 

In the 1950s, it was understandably short on glamour, with the sprawling Tai Shan Ting cemetery covering the site where the current Ngee Ann City stands.

But the founder of Tangs department store, Mr Tang Choon Keng, saw its potential and declared it had promise. 

Soon after that, Orchard Road started its transformation in the 1960s, after the Government zoned the area for retail use and the cemetery land was cleared.

Some of the first shopping centres to spring up included Far East Shopping Centre, next to the Hilton Hotel, which was known for having the most number of escalators in a retail building.

Orchard Road really came into its own in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the opening of the MRT line and the giant $520 million Ngee Ann City, then Singapore’s largest shopping centre.


The Presence Of Large Property Developers

St Regis -  wikimedia

St Regis - wikimedia

Nearly all of Singapore’s large property companies have a presence on Orchard Road:

City Developments - St Regis Hotel and Residences.

CapitaLand - Ion Orchard. 

Far East Organization - Far East Shopping Centre and Orchard Central.

Overseas Union Enterprise - Mandarin Orchard Singapore and Mandarin Gallery. 

Hotel Properties Limited - Hilton Hotel Singapore, Four Seasons Hotel and Forum The Shopping Mall.

Australia's Lendlease - 313@ Somerset.


Big Corporations

The Tang family owns Tang Plaza, composing the department store and the Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel.

Shaw family owns Shaw House and Shaw Centre

Singapore Press Holdings - Paragon Shopping Centre.

Frasers Centrepoint - The Centrepoint. 

OCBC Bank - Orchard Gateway


Recent Developments

For about a decade, there were no new malls along Orchard Road  until the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) released two more plots of land for sale in 2005. These would become Ion Orchard and Orchard Central.

In recent times, Orchard Road near Somerset MRT station section has seen some changes. 


Who is Who

Anyone who is someone is here.

The Singapore business scene unfolds before your very eyes as you stroll along Orchard Road. Old money, Singapore big wigs, foreign players and the new kids are all present.

A glimpse of the sprawling Thai Embassy serves up a stretch of greenery and calm.
Along Scotts Road, the Sultan of Brunei lends a royal touch with his Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel.

Shaw House and Shaw Centre, built by entertainment moguls the Shaw Brothers, represent the presence of old money.
Not to be left out are the portfolios of some of the biggest firms in Singapore - City Developments and Far East Organization.



Located at the junction of Scotts Road and Orchard Road, these buildings - Shaw House and Shaw Centre as well as Tangs@Tang Plaza with the Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel - are landmarks.
Singaporeans do have fond memories of Shaw House's Lido Theatre which opened in 1959. Many may still remember the original department store House of Tang, now known as Tangs. The building with its distinctive green roof was modelled after the Imperial Palace in Beijing.


Around Somerset MRT station, many new malls have come up in recent times.
This includes Orchard Central by Far East Organization, Orchard Gateway by OCBC Bank and Great Eastern and 313@Somerset by Australian developer Lendlease.
A striking glass link-bridge highlights the unique feature of the Somerset stretch of the shopping belt.


Ion Orchard by  May Wong

Ion Orchard by May Wong

Leading the way, Ion Orchard, Ngee Ann City and Paragon make this stretch of Orchard Road glitzy and glamorous. Especially around Christmas, Orchard Road will take on a life of its own, with festive mood and bonuses lining people's pockets. 
Mandarin Orchard Hotel remains popular with tourists because of its centralised location. Its Mandarin Gallery showcases upmarket brands.


Tourists prefer to hangout around Ion Orchard and Ngee Ann City rather than venture forth to this stretch of Orchard Road. 
However, there is a charm along this tree-lined stretch and unique shops cater to people in the know. Shops at the Palais Renaissance and the Hilton Hotel pamper to the well-heeled. Around its vicinity are the super high end, luxurious apartment of Ardmore Park.


Redevelopment Potential

Except for luxury hotel St Regis Singapore, which opened in December 2007, the relatively quieter stretch of upper Orchard area, from Far East Shopping Centre to Tanglin Mall  has seen little change in the past decade.

Reckoning there is potential there, Hong Leong Group Kwek Leng Beng called for a more cohesive approach to rework the upper section for its long term strategic and economic value and the tree-lined Orchard Boulevard which promises a great future.