Sim Lim Square owners on April 29 put up the property for collective sale via public tender with a reserve price of $1.25 billion. Sim Lim Square owners each stand to receive between $488,000 and $67.5 million if the sale is successful, said marketing agent SLP Scotia. More than 80 per cent of the 423 owners consented to the sale on March 11.
Sim Lim Square owners had initially asked for $1.1 billion, but this was raised to $1.3 billion in February.
The popular six-storey strata-titled retail mall has 492 individual units with a total strata floor area of approximately 236,881 sq ft, excluding common areas such as the basement car park and common corridor. The currently approved total gross floor area is 391,002 sq ft. The site is also zoned for commercial use with a plot ratio of 4.2. The 31-year-old building which was completed in 1987 is located at the junction of Rochor Canal Road and Bencoolen Street.
SLP Scotia, said developers can explore converting Sim Lim Square into a mixed-use development with a hotel and office space, due to its “unique and strategic location at the apex of the Ophir-Rochor Corridor, which is part of the expanded downtown area”.
“Interested developers could explore converting Sim Lim Square to other uses, taking advantage of the latest URA incentive scheme, the Strategic Development Incentive scheme,” added SLP Scotia.
Mr Vikas Gupta, chairman of the collective sales committee speaking on behalf of the Sim Lim Square owners said the site is “currently heavily underutilised and the strata system does not allow Sim Lim Square to utilise the spare space.” He added, “It’s the ideal time to refresh Sim Lim Square.”
Salleh Marican, the founding Chairman and CEO of Second Chance Properties Ltd, which owns 12 commercial units in Sim Lim Square, said last year that he was not confident if they can get 80 percent of the signatures to move to the next stage of the en bloc.
If the en bloc goes through, Sim Lim Square owners of the largest units could get as much as $60 million, while the smaller ones may get about $500,000. Mr Salleh himself stands to gain about $30 million from a successful collective sale.
Sim Lim Square is notorious for bad service and dubious sales tactics, but it is also known as the go-to place in Singapore for electronic gadgets.
As early as in 2008, Sim Lim Square shops were busted by the police for selling counterfeit copies of Microsoft Windows.
In April 2013, after the management of Sim Lim Square put up lists of recalcitrant shops as a warning to shoppers, some of these stores resorted to shrinking or removing their names from their signboards. Others even changed their name or got culprits to rip off the list.
The dishonest sales practices of some of the shops in Sim Lim Square was underlined by the Jover Chew saga. Chew set up the electronics shop, Mobile Air, in Sim Lim Square with the sole aim of deceiving his customers with inflated warranty prices. The electronics shop closed following outrage when a video circulated online of a Vietnamese tourist, on his knees begging for a refund from Chew. The Vietnamese had paid $950 for an iPhone 6, but was told he had to add $1,500 in warranty fees.
Chew was sentenced to 33 months’ jail and fined $2,000 in 2015 for his “audacious” scheme of cheating unsuspecting victims while seeking to dodge civil and criminal sanctions.
The impact on the mall’s reputation over customer scams, highlighted by the Jover Chew saga, was so serious that in late 2014 the management of Sim Lim Square appealed to the authorities to “take a tough stand against the recalcitrant retailers”.
Now, scam victims may seek redress through the Sim Lim Square management (who certifies honest retailers through its Star Retailer programme), CASE (Consumer Association of Singapore) or the Small Claims Court.
But not all the shops in Sim Lim Square are infamous. One reviewer in Tripadvisor says, “the trap for most tourists is that they shop at the first two floors because of time restraints. This is where the stores are at the most expensive…(so) start from the top level and look into the back areas because there are some places where you can find some of the oddest and more practical items…As you go down, the market tends to move from the “geek” level to the common user and the prices slowly rise which is a real shame…”
But such honest reviews have failed to lift the fortunes of the retailers in Sim Lim Square. The mall’s bad reputation has affected sales in recent years. As the shops are individually owned, the management is unable to eliminate the errant retailers.
More recently, Sim Lim Square was flagged by the Coalition Against Piracy for selling set-top boxes which enabled them to stream copyrighted programmes such as Game of Thrones or the latest Korean dramas without having to pay for the content. Savvy salesmen at electronics mall Sim Lim Square expertly demonstrate how easy it is to set up and access programmes on the set-top boxes.
The Government does not consider the devices illegal as users can view them legally in websites, such as YouTube and members of public who are interested in buying them, can easily purchase the sets from places such as Sim Lim Square at the price of around $100 and above.
Despite such negative press, Sim Lim Square owners have managed to maintain its niche as a retail electronics hub, especially with the closure of Funan Digitalife Mall. If the Sim Lim Square en bloc sale comes to a successful closure, Singapore would have lost another retail space dedicated to all things electronic and technocentric.
If that happens, the best bet for IT retailers still housed in Sim Lim Square would be to move into shopping malls which have established a reputation in recent years as the place to be to fulfill ones geeky impulses or electronic needs. Peninsula Shopping Centre, Liang Court- Audio City and Suntec City are some of these malls which have entrenched themselves as futuristic technocentres.
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