Ever wondered why we sometimes feel the urge to spend more time in a mall? Perhaps it’s because you feel comfortable, feel a sense of convenience and familiarity that makes you happy to wander around, or a sudden need to explore a store that looks new and exciting! Angela Ng, Head of Retail Design Management, gives us an inside look into what retail design entails, from design thinking and creativity, to teamwork and technical details.
Angela (third from left) posing with her team comprising (from left) Christopher, Lucille, Cheryl, Christina and Sam.
Q: Why is good retail design important?
Angela: Squeezed by changing shopper demographics and competition from e-commerce, many malls worldwide are going through a challenging period. Although word on the street is that brick-and-mortar stores are suffering, I only share a fraction of this sentiment. I believe that we can make a positive difference by offering fresh experiences within our malls.
With a new generation of well-travelled shoppers, we need to cater to their evolving habits and create unique selling points to keep them coming back. The days where shopping was simply a transaction of products are long gone. More so than ever, we must continue to keep an open mind, innovate and be flexible in improving customer experiences.
Exciting retail concepts line the 24-hour boardwalk at Waterway Point.
Q: Could you explain more about retail design?
Angela: Good retail design is about how appealing and refreshing retail experiences draw you into spending a longer time at the mall, and the whole atmosphere just compels you to explore. The design of each shop entices you, and yet they all work well together to enhance the mall’s overarching theme.
To achieve such a seamless experience actually takes many “little” creative design thinking and meticulous design specifics. It’s about the immersive and the experiential. We are all stimulated by our senses…what we see, smell, and touch, while interesting product displays, colors, textures, profile (shapes and forms), lighting, signage and details attract our attention.
Thus, a retail or dining experience can be refreshed with elements such as an exciting shopfront presentation, the use of technology, or touches of innovative, multi-sensory elements. These factors do far more than please the eye, they create hierarchy, meaning, and focus, which engage shoppers in a vibrant, chic and bespoke experience.
Therefore, a good mixture of these elements and a strong story is key to engaging today’s sophisticated shoppers and elevating the in-store experience.
The Retail Design Management Team works on a variety of design projects like Changi City Point’s new customer service counter.
Q: What have you learnt from your past experiences in the industry?
Angela: Being in the real estate industry for over a decade has given me the opportunity to understand retail from different angles, such as operations, trade mix and through building a network with tenants within the real-estate space. It is important to keep an open mind about things that are new or things we may not yet understand. That is why I make it an effort to be hands-on with the team, as well as to better understand the mall and retailers’ needs. Being on ground is the best way to understand what is happening which helps us foresee and adapt to challenges quickly.
Additionally, when it comes to working with tenants, engaging them early allows us to communicate design requirements and help them better appreciate the importance of store design. Part of what we do involves striking a balance between tenants’ constraints profiling, and translating their brand experiences within the mall’s context.
Various Food and Beverage concepts at Basement 1 of Waterway Point offer unique experiences to their customers.
Q: How important is collaboration in what you do?
Angela: Collaboration in the workplace is an absolute necessity. And has become increasingly important in todays’ context.
By collaborating with others – be it with our tenants, interior designers, contractors, inter-department or external consultants, skills and knowledge can be pooled to make the project more successful than it might otherwise be.
A collaborative workplace naturally cultivates a sense of community within an organisation, and employees feel more like part of a family. This will naturally move them to go the extra mile.
Our scope of work in Retail Design Management includes working closely with our leasing colleagues, as well as with tenants, designers and builders, to understand the positioning, concept and theme of our tenants and their brands, so we can provide constructive design critique, solutions, adaptations and enhancements to their design that befits the positioning of our mall.
We also bridge the gap between projects to ensure proper interface and detailing for smooth integration between tenancy units and the mall’s finishes.
Some of Waterway Point’s tenants offer a panoramic view of the waterway.
Q: What is your philosophy when it comes to running a great team?
Angela: Teamwork, Motivation, Creativity, Strong work ethics, 100% Effort. As I am working with a new team, I hope to make a positive impression with them and am excited to collaborate, groom and grow alongside my six-man team comprising of Christopher, Sam, Cheryl, Lucille and Christina. Together, we hope to evolve and keep up with fast-changing retail trends. I believe it is essential to explore new ways to innovate, engage millennials (our new consumers), keep pace with evolving technologies and be ready to adapt to change.
The Oasis, Changi City Point. Developed with a garden concept, the team worked with the mall’s tenants to incorporate more woody and rustic elements into the design of their spaces.
Q: What are some of your most memorable moments here?
Angela: I’ve been blessed to be given the opportunity to be involved in the opening of YewTee Point, Changi City Point, Bedok Point and also Northpoint’s previous asset enhancement initiative (AEI). It was fun and very rewarding to see the transformation of our malls and the various design concepts brought to life.
The upcoming AEI will be Northpoint’s second one. To coincide with the new Northpoint City; we conceptualised some new formats and unique design requirements communicated through our Retail Design Guidelines.
Today, you see local brands sprouting around the region such as Eu Yan Sang, Old Chang Kee and BreadTalk, all with new and improved store concepts. They put a lot of effort into enhancing their shop fit-out, interior ambience, product packaging and presentation and even uniforms – all to better reflect the positioning of their brand.
To keep up with the evolving market, we have helped some small-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with their designs, and gained some buy-in from others. Although it means more investment on their part, they actually find their experience with us useful. Some of our tenants have even adopted their improved designs and applied it to their other stores, and we are really happy when that happens! Through these collaborations, we not only see tenants grow as a brand and transform for the better, we also learn with them!
The new Party Room at Waterway Point can be rented for private parties and has a dream-like, hot-air balloon theme.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Angela: In retail, it is important to have insight from the ground, which is why I like to speak to different people. Different people have different vantage points and can provide insight about how the market is doing or which areas need improvement. After all, retail is all about people.
Q: What are you looking forward to in your next projects?
Angela: We’re really looking forward to going beyond just the hardware now. What I mean is that beyond physical design enhancements, we hope to dwell more into technology to enhance the experience our malls offer.
For example, in the upcoming Northpoint City, the development team has planned for a thematic zone, “Makan Town”, where the community can come together to hang out and enjoy a “melting pot” of Asian flavours. We hope to create a communal food destination with the use of design features such as distinct cultural and historical design motifs, colours and patterns, and a specially curated selection of F&B concepts. Shoppers and diners can look forward to a gastronomical “trip” around Asia!