Management of Sim Lim Square held a press conference on Friday to address the growing negative publicity surrounding the IT retail mall after images of a Vietnamese tourist going down on his knees to beg for a refund in one of shops, Mobile Air Pte Ltd went viral.
Sim Lim Square's Chairman Raymond Chua addressed to the press saying that there are almost 500 retailers at Sim Lim Square, with just 10 black sheeps amounting to less than 2% of shops in total.
Sim Lim Square's Vice-chairman Kwek Theng Swee noted that Sim Lim Square's management had sought legal advice to see if they can sue these black sheeps, but was told that they cannot proceed as the by-laws of the management committee do not give them the right to do so.
Mr Chua said they have gotten in touch with the owner of the shop space leased to Mobile Air. According to Mr Chua, the owner of the shop did not know that the space was rented to Mobile Air as the agreement was conducted via a third-party. The owner wanted to terminate the contract but has not done so.
The mall’s management team said it had taken many steps to improve standards, including a STARetailer initiative where retailers with no complaints lodged against them are issued with a sticker for their shops. Customers that purchase items at the STARetailer stores – which number over 300 – are able to make use of a seven-day return policy. To guard against forgery of these signs, checks are made daily.
The management shared that apart from working with the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) and appealing to several government agencies for help, they have also spent up to S$800,000 on promotion, over S$1 million for a covered walkway linking the mall to the MRT station, and another million on upgrading the mall’s lighting and air-conditioning.
When asked by local media about why shops have gone to such measures to conduct their business, Mr Kwek said, "Competition is stiff with e-commerce and trade fairs; products keep changing and rent is also another source of pressure. Some retailers can't handle it, so they think of funny ways to handle the situation,"
"We are very disappointed that in Singapore - such a lawful place - these black sheep exist and we are unable to get rid of them. With recent events, we are taking it as a chance to start anew. If the Government can help us with these things, we can be a shopping paradise."
"These black sheep have destroyed all of this and we feel like we have wasted our time. We should change our focus from promotion to raising service standards," said one member of the management.
Mr Lim Biow Chuan, president of CASE and Member of Parliament for Mountbatten SMC is expected to raise this issue during the next Parliament session, and will ask if police can assist further. The management had said that Mr Lim had requested the management to collect evidence of these errant retailers.
“At Sim Lim Square, you can have the joy of bargaining, purchase different parts and put them together on your own - in Singapore there isn't a second place like this. It's a pity such black sheep destroy such a special shopping mall."
The management plans to let the consumers pick the top five retailers and salesmen in the mall, and provide a customer service centre. They will be considering to give rewards to consumers who can come up with suggestions to solve this issue of errant shops in the retail mall.