Orchard Road is arguably Singapore’s most iconic and famous shopping street. However, in recent years, the shopping district has been losing its lustre to both young and old Singaporean shoppers. Just walk along Orchard Road and you’ll observe that several malls such as Far East Plaza and Mandarin Gallery are quiet with few shoppers in sight.

Credits: photo by

The vacancy rate in malls along Orchard Road had hit a five-year high in the first quarter of 2016 at 8.8%. This was significantly higher than the average vacancy rate of 7.7% in malls across Singapore. (Photo Credit: Raj Nadarajan, TODAY)

The reality is that Singaporean shoppers have been increasingly drawn to online shopping websites and suburban neighbourhood malls instead of the premier shopping belt. Online shopping websites in particular are especially popular with millennials shoppers in Singapore. Aged 16 to 34, millennials are digital natives comfortable with technology and always up for any digital experience.

Just last year, digital and social media agency We Are Social reported that more than half of all Singaporeans had made purchases online (59%). And out of these online shoppers, three in five of them prefer to shop online using their smartphones.

As making online purchases has become second nature to them, and it is hence unsurprising that online shopping websites has become their preferred choice of shopping. Photo Credit: Inside Retail Singapore

Online shopping categories favoured by Singaporeans across all ages include clothes, flight tickets and hotel bookings. (Photo Credit: Inside Retail Singapore)

Among all the different online shopping categories sought-after by millennials, fashion retail is especially substantial in Singapore. Out of all Singaporeans, millennials are reported to have the highest proportion of new clothing. 30% of them said that at least half of the clothes they owned in 2017 were purchased in that year alone.

While there is no distinctive fashion trend in Singapore that young people follow, one thing in common between the millennials is that they are comfortable with shopping online for their clothes and making digital transactions.

And this is how millennials shop online in Singapore:

1. International fashion websites

When looking to be inspired by international fashion trends, many turn to fashion e-retailers such as Zalora and ASOS. These e-retailers stock well-known international brands such as Topshop, Mango, Nike, Under Armour, River Island and more. In addition, brands like Zalora and ASOS also offer their own dedicated line of wardrobe must-haves and beauty products. You can read more about these sites here.

Shopping online for international brands is attractive as major brands often offer cost savings from free shipping and delivery with a minimum spending. (Photo Credit: Honey Combers, courtesy of Grana)

2. Local fashion boutiques

For trendy clothing options that are the front-runners of local fashion, many millennials look towards independent online boutiques such as DressabelleLove, BonitoThe Closet Lover and Sufyaa. Many of these fashion boutiques started as humble blogshops or Facebook pages, but over the years, have gained a steady following. They are favoured by the millennial crowd for offering clothes with sizes and styles well-suited for the Asian frame. Check out some of the local fashion boutiques here.

Photo Credit:  Honey Combers, courtesy of Modparade

While international online stores are well-liked for their fast fashion options, local fashion boutiques have a special place in the hearts of millennials in Singapore. (Photo Credit: Honey Combers, courtesy of Modparade)

3. Taobao or ezbuy

Millennials on a tight budget, and those who live for “cheap thrills” swear by shopping on Taobao, China’s largest online marketplace. This platform is the answer to cheap and affordable clothing for many young people, providing an alternative to fast fashion from international high street chains. But given the language barrier (Taobao operates in the Chinese language), Taobao can sometimes be hard to navigate. This is where third-party e-commerce agent ezbuy comes into the picture, as it is the delivery agent of choice for many millennials in Singapore. A large number of shoppers rely on ezbuy’s services to source for their purchases from Taobao.

4. Carousell

The practice of buying and selling second-hand clothes is common among millennials in Singapore. In fact, many young people do so on Carousell, a homegrown mobile application that functions as a virtual flea market. Millennials update and expand their wardrobes often, but to do that they need both the space and money. As such, many sellers on Carousell list their “pre-loved” fashion items on the platform, to attract potential buyers. Evidently, the sharing economy is well-received among millennials, who are in it extra cash, to declutter their personal space, or to be exert their environmental consciousness.

Photo Credits: The Independent Singapore

Carousell, an application for selling used goods, operates within seven markets – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia. (Photo Credit: Carousell)

In Singapore, millennials are quickly becoming the most influential demographic in the retail sector, representing the largest group of shoppers both online and offline. And for many of them, the idea of a retail therapy is no longer just about a shopping spree in an air conditioned mall. Instead, it is likely to involve a full online shopping experience checking out virtual cart loads of stuff from online websites and mobile applications.

By Prisca Lim, ASEAN Correspondent from Singapore
Photo credit – featured image banner by: Zaphs Zhang