Pedder on Scotts Walks The End Of The Road

Hong Kong’s premium shoe emporium will close for good at the end of this month. But their parent store in Takashimaya Shopping Centre remains

The tell-tale signs on the front side of Scotts Square were there, way back when Hermès closed in 2019, followed by Delvaux, the Belgian bag’s flagship store and then Alexander McQueen’s—this year. The mall, one of the smallest in Orchard Road, seems to be shedding its high-end image. A former marketing staff with Wheelock Properties once told us that they would be filling their spaces “with exclusive luxury brands not found elsewhere”. The Business Times once described it as “home of luxury”. But with the debut of the LA eatery Eggslut next week (official opening on the 9th) in the corner where Hermès (and Mosscape Concept after that) vacated, are we looking at a less “exclusive” image? A long queue was seen this morning when they opened for “family and friends”. Long is expected when Eggslut finally opens to the egg-loving public. Is F&B the direction Scotts Square is going, especially with crowd-pulling names? Could this be the reason why Pedder on Scotts is closing—they no longer fit?

Pedder on Scotts’s “It’s hard to say goodbye” closing down sale (“up to 80% off”, but not everything is marked down to clear) started sharing on social media this week (the store’s website and Instagram pages are no more). We are not surprised by the closure announcement. Since the start of the pandemic, the store, occupying the whole floor of the three-storey mall, has been looking a tad less glorious than their former self. Some mall leasing managers we know were already speaking of a “massive space to be available in Scotts Square soon”. News of their closing travelled fast. Although it is stated on their communication material that opening hours are from “10am to 6pm daily”, the store welcome shoppers an hour later—“open eleven (sic)”, a staffer said brusquely when we asked her if they were closing down. By 10.30, people were milling in the corridor, with the crowd concentrated at Coffee Academics, the atas Hong Kong cafe situated in the Scotts Road-facing corner of the floor. When asked why the store would be closing, another staffer, a lot chirpier, told us it’s because of “landlord change”.

We’re not sure what to make of that surprising reveal. Scotts Square has been, for as long as we remember, a part of Wheelock Properties. A staffer in the mall told us that “the place is now under Wharf”, which is really Wharf Estates, a subsidiary of the esteemed, 135-year-old Hong Kong-based Wharf Real Estate Investment Company that is behind popular HK shopping destination such as Harbour City and Time Square. Known to the staff of the mall here as Wharf, the operator is, according to their website, “formerly known as Wheelock Properties (Singapore)”. Scotts Square and Wheelock Place are two of Wharf Estates’ commercial properties on our island. Is dropping the Wheelock name as owner of the mall reason to belief that there is a “landlord change”? Or is Wharf Estate truly rejigging their tenant mix so dramatically that staff of their lessees believe some major overhaul is afoot?

Pedder on Scotts opened in October 2015. The massiveness of the store—20,000 sqf—and the breadth of the merchandise were seen as a strong boost to luxury retail here. It was an emporium—specialty store, really—unlike any SG had seen, however large our consumption of luxury footwear. One fashion stylist at the store’s opening party, we vividly remember, called the product offering “orgiastic”. Shoe-lovers would not see that as exaggeration. Before the arrival of Pedder on Scotts, the largest standalone footwear haven was parent store On Pedder at Takashimaya Shopping Centre. We were told On Pedder would not close down. The women’s shoes in the Scotts store would move there, but the men’s and the sneakers would not. They will be “discontinued”. It is unclear what the fate of Canada Goose’s boutique in Pedder on Scotts is (Coffee Academics, it seems, will stay). Pedder Red (closed at Takashimaya Shopping Centre), the in-house, pocket-friendly diffusion line, will cease to exist too.

When we spoke to a society lady earlier today, she said that it may not be right to conclude, as many have, that Pedder on Scotts is closing because of discouraging sales as a result of the COVID pandemic. “U assume they weren’t doing well, but in reality they were,” she texted us. “Many (socialites) shop there. I have seen them. (They) don’t blink an eye at buying a few pairs at a go. Not unusual for them to spend 1k on a pair and they shop a lot. So on average 3k to 5k.” What did they buy, we wondered. “Dressy heels,” came the quick reply. It may surprise some that heels are selling when Crocs are increasingly popular, even among the fashion set. But, a former magazine editor told us, “Pedder on Scotts has their customers, but how many shiny, glittery heels do ladies need during this pandemic?” To him, price is the store’s undoing: “how to sustain if the selection is always pricey. Sneaker sales can only help so much. (They) need to have a nice (selection) of affordable practical styles as well, no?”

Affordability is increasingly not an issue in the marketing of luxury footwear. Otherwise, Louis Vuitton and the like would resist increasing their prices, repeatedly. What is appreciable of Pedder on Scotts is their attempt at going beyond just running a shoe store, and a static one. Sure, they have introduced us to otherwise alien-to-our-shore brands such as Malone Souliers, Rene Caovilla, Sophia Webster, and Tabitha Simmons, and, for men, Japanese advant-gardiste Yoshio Kubo, but they did broadened their offerings to include exquisite accessories, such as bags (Benedetta Bruzziches) and eyewear (Linda Farrow), and introduced items not-bound-for-feet products, such as the home ware of Fornasetti and the fragrances of Maison Francis Kurkdjian. They have supported local creatives too, staging the Onitsuka Tiger Stripes 50th Anniversary exhibition, featuring the collaborative works of our own designers and media professionals and, also in the same year, invited photographer Mark Law and fashion stylist Jeremy Tan to exhibit their work, as well as the entries of the finalists of Harper’s Bazaar’s NewGen design competition. At Pedder on Scotts, there was community outside the patronage of socialites. We shall miss all that.

Pedder on Scotts will be permanently closed on 26 September 2021. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

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