Sunday, October 21, 2012

Big Box Mania at Tampines Retail Park

When I hear the phrase 'big box retailers', I will immediately think of popular retailers in the US like Target, Walmart and Best Buy. Unfortunately, they did not make their presence in Singapore so we can't enjoy affordable furniture, clothes, electronics and groceries. Not all is lost though. Singapore does have its own set of big box retailers in the east called Tampines Retail Park which consists of a Giant Hypermarket, Ikea Furniture Store and Courts Megastore. Let me give you a brief tour of all the three big box retailers here at Tampines Retail Park.

First, I checked out Singapore's largest furniture and electronics retailer, Courts. However, the one at Tampines Retail Park is known as Courts Megastore which is bigger than any of the current Courts outlets found around Singapore. It was first opened in 2006 and has three levels. The first level is the Market Hall where you can get household appliances and items at affordable prices while the second and third levels are the levels where you can get furniture and electronic goods respectively.

Courts Megastore has quite a unique and simple architecture. I just love the glass exterior and the colours of the building. Of course, the store has to use colours that match the corporate colours which are blue and yellow (kinda similar to Ikea although Ikea mainly uses blue). With its huge yellow and glass exterior, it will definitely capture the attention of passers by.

I just love electronics. It's one of my favourite interests and of course, I will go to the electronics level first before going to the other levels. Unlike other electronic retailers, Courts has sales on their electronics almost every day. There is always some kind of promotion going on at Courts which is why they are quite popular among the locals. Courts sells a variety of electronic goods like tablets, laptops, TVs, washing machines and so much more. Since I love electronics, I will definitely play around with some demo devices available at the store.

Courts sells a wide range of electronics ranging from laptops to smartphones to tablets and so much more. Many of them can be played with and it's great that they can be used so that customers can make informed choices before purchasing the product itself, especially when electronics are expensive big ticket items.

The store was quite empty when I visited the place even though there was a sale going on. Maybe all of them were busy dining at the nearby Ikea Restaurant. The store was also slightly quiet with the exception of laptop and TV sections where music videos and video clips were playing to showcase their video playback capabilities. It's also quite easy to navigate around Courts Megastore thanks to the yellow pathway. The yellow pathway will lead from the entrance all the way to the exit (which is a travellator leading down to the second level) and along the path, you can visit any of the sections within the level and play with the gadgets.

At the Sony corner, there were of course various Sony laptops on display and customers can just walk up to them and play around with them. The thing is that, most of the laptops keep playing the viral music video, Gangnam Style by South Korean rapper, Psy. If you enjoy that song, you can view them but if you hate them, I advise you to stay out of this area of the store totally. The Sony laptops were gorgeous. However, the prices seem a little bit steep for a laptop with similar specifications to its competitors.

There was also an Apple concept corner for those of you who love to play with Apple products and many 3D televisions/Smart televisions were also available on display at the Megastore. The thing about the Smart televisions available at the store was that some of them allow you to play Angry Birds and watch streaming video content by just moving your hand around. It was really cool and it reminds me of Microsoft's Kinect gaming system. Speaking of Kinect, I also played with the Kinect's store display and waved my arms around like nobody's watching. If you're hungry, not to worry as there is a Subway outlet at the Electronics level although it has been renamed to Cafe Connect.

After checking out the awesome Electronics level of the megastore, it was time for me to move downstairs to the Furniture level which was at the second level. As expected, different varieties of furniture can be found here ranging from sofas to dining tables to beds. Unlike the Electronics level, this level was almost empty with very few people walking around looking at the furniture.

What I like about the furniture displays at Courts is that customers can sit on it and use them like as if it's their own furniture just like Ikea. This can ensure that customers can feel comfortable on them and will make informed choices before making an expensive purchase. Some furniture stores still don't allow people to sit and use them which is completely stupid. Nobody will know how comfortable will the furniture be which can make them rethink their purchase as they are not allowed to use them. Just like the Electronics level, navigation is also easy by just following the yellow coloured path. There were so many kinds of furniture available at Courts Megastore and they can easily be paid via any of the store's hire purchase schemes or you can just pay it right away.

Other than the Electronics and Furniture level, there is also a level called Market Hall which can only be found at Courts Megastore. Since Courts Megastore is also a warehouse, the items found at the market hall comes straight from the docks which Courts calls it, 'Hot Off The Docks' and they're affordable. I saw some household appliances like ovens, microwaves and coffee makers too. All you have to do is to just pick up a basket, place the items that you want to buy in the basket and you can pay it all off at the checkout counter.

Shopping at the Courts Megastore's Market Hall is similar to grocery shopping at a local supermarket. Just pick up a basket, place items in it and pay it at the counter. Navigation was also easy thanks to the yellow path on the floor. Another great thing about the Courts Megastore Market Hall was that there was a kitchen counter where cooking demos are held regularly. You can check the Courts website to know when these cooking demos will take place.

After a long day of shopping at Courts Megastore, it's time to have a quick snack at this cafe called Megapicks. Megapicks is essentially a small cafe where you can buy various kinds of snacks like hot dogs, ice cream, fried foods and potato chips. It reminds me a little bit of Ikea's Ikea Bistro. It's a great way to end your shopping trip at Courts Megastore. By the way, this scoop of Mint Ice Cream costs me S$1.50.

The next part of Tampines Retail Park is Ikea. Ikea is a popular Swedish furniture retailer and unlike conventional furniture retailers, Ikea has this concept called 'flat-packing'. Basically, their funiture will be disassembled and placed in boxes so that you can assemble them easily at home. This will make costs cheaper and it can also save space so that you can easily bring it home using your car or public transport without spending money on home delivery. It is no wonder Ikea is one of the most successful furniture retailers in the world.

I just love the appearance of Ikea's entrance. It's very welcoming because of the bright yellow exterior and the big red 'entrance' wording. Also, since the entrance and exit to Ikea are separate, the shuttle buses that stop by Ikea has to stop here and alight passengers down first then they will move up to the bus stop after the taxi stand to pick up passengers. It's a little bit troublesome, but all you have to do is just remember to alight on time. Once you miss this stop, you have no choice but to alight when the shuttle bus reaches Courts Megastore and walk all the way to Ikea.

The last thing that people will talk about at the Ikea store is food. Ikea is not only famous for their showrooms and flat pack furniture, it is also famous for its food. There is the Ikea Restaurant that serves a variety of dishes ranging from the famous Swedish meatballs to local hawker food. Muslim customers do not have to worry as there is a separate queue for Halal food.

Muslim customers can head to this queue to get Halal food also known as Line 3. You can get a variety of food here although the menu is still quite small as compared to the regular lines. The food sold here include Halal Swedish Meatballs, Chicken Wings, Nasi Padang along with Kids Meals like Cheese Croquette with Fries and Fish Nuggets with Fries. If you're thirsty, you could pick up a cup and fill it with a soft drink of your choice or you can try Ikea's house made Lingonberry Drink which sounds delicious.

I didn't really have that much time to check out the showrooms of Ikea so I skipped the Showroom and headed straight to the Ikea Restaurant. After that, I headed for the Market Hall which is the place to find smaller easy-to-carry items. No flat packed furniture here, yet. There were so many things on display here. You can get containers, plants, candles, light bulbs for you to decorate and organise your house right here at the Ikea Market Hall. There is also a section where all the items available at the section are available for just S$5 which are great for those on a tight budget.

Now this was odd. I saw a plush toy of a dog being placed in a container at the Ikea Market Hall. It gave me an impression that someone had abandoned their dog in the Ikea store. Thankfully, it wasn't real.

Here is the area where you can collect all the flat-packed furniture which is also known as the Self-Serve Furniture Area. Once you have jotted down the furniture that you want to buy in your shopping list, you just have to find the number and get the flat pack at this area. Get a huge trolley, load your trolley with the box and take it to the counter to pay for your purchases. After paying for your purchases, you can visit the Swedish Food Market and Ikea Bistro to grab a piece of Sweden home and grab a bite before leaving the store. If you find that lugging all that flat packed furniture a hassle, you can opt for optional home delivery.

After visiting the awesome Courts Megastore and Ikea, I visited the Giant Hypermarket which was located right opposite the two stores. Giant Hypermarket is a Malaysian-based hypermarket that sells various types of items including groceries, home appliances, electronics, clothes and so much more under one roof. Out of all the hypermarkets in Singapore, Giant has lots of outlets located all around the island. The other hypermarkets in Singapore include NTUC FairPrice Xtra and Carrefour.

I don't really have that much pictures of Giant Hypermarket because the place is full of shelves with products for you to grab, go and pay so I am pretty sure you know how it will look like. Out of all the three big box retailers operating at Tampines Retail Park, Giant has free parking. The carpark at Giant really mimics the big box retailers in the US and the UK with plenty of parking lots for drivers to park their cars in front of the store. However, unlike bog box retailers overseas, Giant's carpark has a large shelter to protect passers-by from the rain.

The interior of Giant Hypermarket is pretty bland looking as almost everything has been painted white which is kind of typical for hypermarkets in Singapore. However, despite looking messy as seen in this picture, the hypermarket is clean and neatly organised. Whatever you want to find, they can easily be found with big bright signs. Plus, they will also highlight promotions and special discounts if you are looking for that extra bang for your buck. The problem is that, the place is so big, you can get tired from walking here and there just to find the things that you want to buy. However, you can literally find everything you need right over here at the hypermarket.

Apart from clothes and electronics, there were also groceries. Here is a picture of a shelf full of different kinds of potato chips. There was also a wet market and bakery at the back of the store if you want to get yourself fresh produce and freshly baked bread. This is also great for those residents living near Giant who don't have access to bakeries and a wet market.

Another feature of Giant Hypermarket that mimics big box retailers in the US and the UK is the huge amount of trolleys. If you plan on buying a lot of stuff from the store, it is a good idea to get yourself a trolley and load your items onto them. Thanks to the huge amount of trolleys, you do not have to worry about carrying lots of items with a small basket or around your arms.

Tampines Retail Park is a great place to meet your shopping needs. Most of the items sold here are affordable because their warehouses are located just right behind. If you want to save money, it's worth it to travel all the way here just to save. If you live in the Pasir Ris Drive 12 or Tampines Avenue 10 area, you're lucky as the retail park is just a stone's throw away. If you live in the Tampines or Bedok areas, you're also lucky as there are free shuttle buses that will bring you to Tampines Retail Park conveniently. Bring your friends and family here to shop instead of going to shopping malls that are located literally everywhere around Singapore.

Getting Here 

Shuttle bus services available: Tampines MRT Station to Tampines Retail Park, Bedok MRT Station to Tampines Retail Park (Daily Service)

Bus services available: 27, 34, 58, 168 (Bus stop along Tampines Ave 10 after TPE)

Nearest MRT Station: EW2 Tampines MRT Station (East West Line), EW5 Bedok MRT Station (East West Line)

Ikea's Website: 

Giant's Website: 

Courts Megastore's Website:

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