An in-depth special focus on Asian real estate hot spots, as well as key interviews with important industry figures and analysis
Special Feature: Branding Singapore
Jun 12, 2012
The new Louis Vuitton building at Marina Bay Sands
By Khalil Adis
Singapore is buzzing as a brand destination and now among the top 20 cities in the world favoured by luxury retailers and branded residences.
From branded residences to haute couture, Singapore is fast attracting luxury brands to fuel a growing appetite among the wealthy for the finest things that modern life has to offer. The city state is already home to branded residences like The Ritz-Carlton Residences, W Residences and St. Regis Residences and a recent survey by CBRE also found that Singapore is now among the top 20 cities favoured by international luxury brands looking to expand their presence.
“Besides having an excellent geographical location and acting as a gateway to Asia, Singapore attracts strong brand names thanks to its outstanding infrastructure and being a safe country to live in,” said Leny Suparman, chief executive officer of KOP Properties, developers of Ritz Carlton. “It is also conducive to expats or foreigners who are looking to work in Singapore, especially for those with kids who will find the childcare facilities extremely convenient and readily available.”
Top of the retail chain
In CBRE’s 2012 edition of ‘How Global is the Business of Retail?’ report, research showed Singapore to be the most targeted market in Asia for luxury European retailers with 39.9 per cent of European brands present. The city state was followed by Beijing (38.8 per cent), Shanghai (38.3 per cent) and Hong Kong (37.7 per cent). On the global scale, the Lion City ranks tenth, followed by Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo at eleventh, thirteenth and nineteenth positions respectively. Only Hong Kong beats Singapore when it comes to brand presence on the regional level. “This is testament to the successful evolution of Singapore as a global city and tourist destination,” said Letty Lee, director of retail services, CBRE Singapore. “Singapore remains an accessible test bed for new brands and retailers seeking South East Asian, or Asian exposure. An example would be how Bugis has attracted new-to-market brands. What is also noteworthy is that while Singapore’s ranking dropped to tenth position from number eight, the proportion of top retailers being represented here has increased share slightly from 38.5 per cent the year before.”
Signs of wealth are widely apparent across Singapore, with new labels making in-roads and established ones expanding. “The continuing rise in consumer purchasing power and an ever increasing level of fashion sophistication have attracted the leading global brands to continue investing in new market entry,” said Sebastian Skiff, executive director of CBRE Retail Asia.
In September 2011, Louis Vuitton opened their fifth store in Singapore at the Louis Vuitton Island Maison at Marina Bay Sands, amid great fanfare with celebrities like Cate Blanchett and Chow Yun Fatt gracing the occasion. Designed by Moshe Safdie
, the stand-alone glass and steel crystal pavillion became the newest signature Louis Vuitton store in the world, with interiors by Peter Marino.
“Opening a new Maison store in Singapore is an expression of our belief and optimism in the future of this dynamic city,” said Jean-Baptiste Debains, president of Louis Vuitton Asia-Pacific.
To cater to the huge demand for haute couture and luxury brands, last year saw the launch of the inaugural Singapore Men’s Fashion Week and Women’s Fashion Week – the third city in the world to host the events, after Paris and Milan. “The decision to undertake Men’s Fashion Week, Women’s Fashion Week and Haute Couture Week last year was an obvious one,” said Dr Frank Cintamani, chairman of the events. “Over the last few years Asia and Singapore has undergone an incredible transformation. In particular, Singapore has enjoyed a tremendous rate of change that has seen it establish itself as a global and cosmopolitan city. This increased sophistication in the retail sector has been matched by a burgeoning interest in across the spectrum of fashion, designers and labels. It seemed entirely appropriate to meet that interest with a more sophisticated offering of fashion platforms.”
Buyers at the top-end of the residential market have sophisticated tastes and demand only the best – something The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Singapore offers. According to CEO Leny Suparman, buyers who have snapped up KOP Properties’ units consist of a niche audience of high net worth individuals who are keen to collect interesting and unique properties, are well travelled and consider themselves citizens of the world. Aside from the luxurious hardwares like Poggenpohl kitchen cabinets and Miele appliances, KOP Properties also invest in their software. “We offer a highly trained service team – recognising residents by name, their interests and preferences. The team is also trained to anticipate needs of residents and be more proactive, thereby providing excellent service and comfort to those who call it home,” said Suparman.
According to CDL, developers of St Regis, Singapore, Residences and W Singapore, Sentosa Cove, The Residences, true branded living comes together when a hospitality or fashion brand permeates a residential property. “Singapore is attracting strong brand names because the affluent who invest in the city demand very high and unique standards that St Regis and W Residences offer,” said Dominic Chew, head of marketing communications. “A branded residence has the entire personality and service offerings built-in for the owner’s pleasure and experience. While many developers talk about a lifestyle, CDL delivers the real experience and also offers resort style living, coupled with the branded services, making this an attractive proposition to the discerning luxury investor.”
Branding the future
It’s not necessarily smooth selling for brand managers across all the commercial sectors in Asia, however. At the recent China Hotel Investment Conference in Shanghai, The Brand Company from Hong Kong unveiled the first ever comprehensive research document on Asia’s top hotel brands, ranking them with serious methodology and numbers, and revealing findings that suggest an industry-wide wake up is needed in the way hospitality is approached. “In a world where people are seeking more and more individualism and authenticity why would you want to stay in a French hotel in Hangzhou or an American hotel in Palawan?” said James Stuart, managing partner. “Of course, the large global brands have had an advantage in terms of brand awareness and the perception and many cases, the reality of consistent standards, but what I think they have lacked is simply enough Asian-ness for overseas business and leisure customers. The more established and the more effective the regional and local brands become, the more international, regional and local customers will gravitate towards them.”