Orchard Road has long been regarded one of Asia's best shopping streets, but the time is ripe for reinvention, the boss of a century-old retailer in Singapore told CNBC.
"20 years ago, we had the 'Great Singapore Sale.' Since then, I think we haven't really re-invented anything," said Christophe Cann, managing director of Robinsons Group, in an interview with CNBC's "Managing Asia."
"Back then, it was convenient for regional customers to shop in Singapore because what they could find here, they couldn't find elsewhere. But now, it is a different ball game," he said.
Amid the population and consumer boom in other parts of Southeast Asia, global brands now have the option to set up shop elsewhere in the region, significantly reducing the need for people to travel to Singapore to shop.
With the republic's position as a top shopping destination at stake, attracting more international retailers is a viable solution, but soaring rents in land-scarce Singapore often deter them.
"I can bring new brands into Singapore, but if rents are too expensive, I have no incentive to do it. To have a fashion and retail scene that is more vibrant, retailers need to find a win-win strategy with the landlords," the former deputy general manager of French department store Galeries Lafayette said.
Apart from rising rentals, the retail sector in the Southeast Asian city-state is also feeling the heat from a labor crunch due to tighter foreign worker policies. The rise of e-commerce exacerbated those woes, while, more recently, a decline in tourist arrivals in 2014 took a toll on the industry, which contributes to a fifth of Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP).
"We have to find a way to attract customers again. It is about how you welcome your customers by offering more than just discounts," Cann said. "Singapore can keep its [sparkle as a shopping destination], but there's an urgent need to refresh it."