Procter & Gamble Co. made headlines last year when it announced it was shifting certain operations to Singapore, but it was really just following in the footsteps of a flock of businesses that have recently moved to the Southeast Asian city-state.
This story first appeared in the February 8, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Only 274 square miles large and home to a population of just 5.5 million, this former British colony today hosts the regional headquarters of companies ranging from Givau- dan to LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. According to the Boston Consulting Group, Singapore was home to 188,000 millionaire households in 2011, making it the country with the highest percentage of millionaire households in the world. Among Singapore’s most famous new residents: Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin, whose renunciation of American citizenship to set up here provoked a spat with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.).
Singapore possesses certain advantages that have allowed it to become a gateway to the East for international business. Much of Singapore’s majority-Chinese population speaks both English and Mandarin, making the country a popular shopping spot for Chinese tourists and the companies that target them. Louis Vuitton’s Southeast Asian flagship, located in a crystal pavilion built on reclaimed land just off the city shoreline, hums with Chinese customers swiping their UnionPay cards. Throw in a low sales-tax rate and loose visa requirements, and there’s little wonder why nearly 1.2 million Chinese visitors turned up in 2010.
The government is also well regarded for having built an investor-friendly climate. There is no capital gains tax and companies are taxed at a flat rate of 17 percent, significantly lower than most other developed nations. Changi Airport, which serves more than 100 international destinations, is a regional transit hub that regularly ranks as one of the world’s best airports.
“Singapore is the perfect first step into Asia because the rule of law and strict adherence to property rights are all present,” says Michael Ault, who operated New York’s SpyBar in the Nineties, before settling here with his family to set up Pangaea, a glitzy nightclub next to the Vuitton flagship. “Moving over was a no-brainer.”
The activism of the Economic Development Board, a state agency tasked with attracting foreign investment, also helps… although the exact details of how the board, which is now turning its attention to industries like fashion and the arts, attracts investment are unclear.
Senator Schumer isn’t the first to complain about Singapore’s efforts to draw foreign investment and talent, but in this millionaire’s playground, the shops are still packed, the waiting lists at celebrity chefs’ restaurants long and the partying at clubs rages on.
Singapore’s largest bookstore offers 500,000 titles alongside every notable international newspaper. It also stocks an extensive range of Japanese fashion magazines. #03-09/10/15 Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard Road; +65-6737-5021
BEST HAIR SALON
PASSION HAIR SALON
Ask for owner/ stylist David Gan, who is a favorite of Memoirs of a Geisha star Zhang Ziyi and popular with local ladies who lunch. #02-01 Palais Renaissance, 390 Orchard Road; +65-6733-5638
BEST MOVIE THEATRE
GOLDEN VILLAGE GOLD CLASS VIVOCITY
The plush recliner seats in this multiplex come with call buttons and access to a wine menu. The concierge service can also help with pre- and post-show transportation arrangements. Levels 2 and 3, VivoCity, 1 Harbourfront Walk; +65-6311-9162
The florescent-lit and haphazardly arranged interiors belie a client list that includes some of Singapore’s best-dressed professionals. Expect a waiting time more reminiscent of Savile Row than the 24-hour-turnaround tailors more common to the region. #01-102, Lucky Plaza, 304 Orchard Road; +65-9649-6047
PURE FITNESS KNIGHTSBRIDGE
Overlook Singapore’s main shopping thoroughfare while battling the treadmill at this gym, which also offers more than 80 classes weekly, taught by certified instructors. Level 3 Knightsbridge, 270 Orchard Road; +65-6100-3813
Tucked away on the edge of a former British military compound, this Australian-helmed bar is known for its obsessive attitude toward cocktails. The menu frequently changes, but the quality seldom dips. 8D Dempsey Road;+65-6475-2217
BEST PLACE TO PARTY
Owner Michael Ault blends the know-how of having operated nightclubs all around the world with the Rolodex that comes from being the son of a Van Cleef. International celebrities on a stopover regularly head to what is reportedly the world’s most profitable nightclub, per square foot. 2 Bayfront Avenue, Marina Bay Sands (Crystal Pavilion South); +65-8611-7013
TOBY’S ESTATE CAFÉ
The sole Singapore outpost of the popular Australian café chain offers views of the Singapore River and a powerful cappuccino. Expect a crowd on weekends. 8 Rodyk Street #01-03/04; +65-6636-7629
This 120-seat restaurant is located within a glassy dome in a park built on reclaimed land. The Mediterranean-inspired menu includes classics from Jason Atherton’s acclaimed London restaurant, Pollen Street Social. Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive; +65-6604-9988
Though located in a recently opened hotel, this rain forest–themed spa has quickly become a hit with discerning locals. Book one of the 112-square-meter private rooms and luxuriate in a herbal bath. W Singapore Sentosa Cove, 21 Ocean Way; +65-6808-7288
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD TO LIVE IN
Residents here enjoy the seclusion of living on an island off the mainland, while having the convenience of half a dozen celebrity chef restaurants at the Resorts World Sentosa resort within walking distance. Meanwhile, the central business district is just a 15-minute drive away. 1 Cove Avenue; +65-6275-9088