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FJ Benjamin’s Avenue on 3 showcases CEO Douglas Benjamin’s deep knowledge of shoes

Samantha Chiew
Samantha Chiew • 7 min read
FJ Benjamin’s Avenue on 3 showcases CEO Douglas Benjamin’s deep knowledge of shoes
Benjamin: I see a lot of potential for Avenue on 3 to grow and evolve into an immersive space to meet the needs of shoppers today
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On the third floor of Paragon on Orchard Road is a new retail concept that aims to bring high-end consumers innovative retail experiences. A brainchild of FJ Benjamin’s (FJB) CEO Douglas Benjamin, Avenue on 3 was launched on April 17 as a highly-curated multi-label luxury shoe and lifestyle concept store.

As bricks-and-mortar foot traffic returns, Benjamin sees the need for these feet to be dressy and all that can be seen at Avenue on 3, a swanky 8,000 sq ft of indulgence overlooking Paragon Shopping Centre’s atrium on the third floor. This temple of luxury is devoted to trendy footwear from some of the most established and revered labels, as well as provides a chic, comfortable venue for social meetups, events and workshops over artisanal food and drinks.

The main draw will be its impressive collection of ladies’ shoes that combine modern design and traditional craftsmanship, showcasing everything from sky-scraping heels to fuss-free mules and ballet flats from brands such as Aquazzura, Gianvito Rossi, Alaïa, René Caovilla, Loewe, Giuseppe Zanotti, and more.

Avenue on 3 is unlike any other upscale fashion store FJB has ever opened in Singapore. In addition to the dizzying array of stylish footwear, Avenue on 3 will also retail accessories such as eyewear, handbags and jewellery from premium brands, including Linda Farrow eyewear, handbags from Valextra, Tom Ford, and Lanvin, as well as jewellery from Oscar de la Renta, among others.

See also: Hermès men’s winter 2024 collection embodies a paradox with its diverse interplay of colours, styles and materials

To elevate the retail experience further, Avenue on 3 also offers F&B options in the form of artisanal Lebanese chocolatier Patchi, a 40-seater café with a Mediterranean-inspired menu, as well as an open bar that serves coffee in the day and champagne and caviar from late afternoon. For the beauty junkie, there is a dedicated boutique with suites for facials, blowouts, massages and manicures, where customers can try top-of-the-line skincare products, including Dr Barbara Sturm and MZ Skin.

Avenue on 3’s large, modular space is also designed for flexible, adaptable use depending on clients’ needs. Italian luxury label Bottega Veneta has signed up to install a pop-up store showcasing various products exclusive to the venue.

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Options chatted with Benjamin to find out more about this new concept.

Could you tell us more about this concept? Why shoes?

It is acknowledged that women generally prefer to shop in a multi-label format for shoes as it allows them to try a variety of brands and styles to select the shoe that best serves their needs or meets their desires.

The ladies’ shoe section is usually crowded in any department or speciality store. Designer footwear, in particular, is one of the strongest revenue-generating segments in fashion, as customers in the high-end market show that they are willing to pay for perfection.

And it’s not just about fancy evening wear shoes here. We also have daily wearables. The shoes we have here are an evolution, not a revolution from season to season because the people who come here need to know they can come again and find something they like. We will keep refining and moving the needle all the time to bring in new customers and give people new experiences.

Where did you get the inspiration to start this?

I was sitting in my room one day, during the “circuit breaker” period, staring out of my window at the trees. I knew we would survive this event, but what got me thinking was, what will life be like after?

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And when I was walking down Orchard Road after the lockdown, I thought it was a familiar and comfortable place. But after going back there several times, [my family and I] started getting bored because there was nowhere else to go. My daughter turned to me and said: “There must be something else we can do.”

After she planted this idea [in my mind], I started ruminating on ways to revive the shopping scene. I knew I could always do retail, but I wanted to add something else and give everyone an experience to make it different — not just open another retail store.

With inflation today, is this a good time to open up a new concept?

The luxury market in Singapore has been remarkably resilient, outpacing the broader market. The population of high-net-worth individuals in Singapore has increased significantly in recent years. With rising wealth comes a corresponding increase in demand for luxury goods and services, which bodes well for Avenue on 3’s success in Singapore. High-net-worth individuals are less resistant towards inflation and will always have the ability to want to spend. After all, everyone wants to buy themselves something nice occasionally; it’s just a matter of what you buy.

However, we’re not just targeting the “mega wealthy”. Avenue on 3 is for everyone with whatever budget. If the expensive shoes are not for you, perhaps the coffee and cakes will whet your appetite.

Who chooses the shoes to bring in, and is there some exclusivity to the brands here?

As a multi-brand store, Avenue on 3 also works as a testing ground for brands to see how they sell and how well the market receives them. I am the purchaser of all the shoes you see here and work closely with a buyer. Some of the brands here are exclusive and only available physically here. You will have to buy them online otherwise.

Is this FJ Benjamin’s first foray in the F&B space, and will we see more of such to come?

Yes, this is our first venture into the F&B space. This is our way to dip our toes into the F & B industry and try it out.

We initially did not decide to open a restaurant, but [after some thought], it made sense: People naturally will want to head to a restaurant or café to eat before they start shopping, or for a coffee as a break in between.

It is a symbiotic relationship — the café and the retail segment. Shopping is an emotional experience; you don’t just see [something] and buy it. You will want to walk away and think about it before returning to make your purchase. So, sit at the café and enjoy a drink and a meal while you do so.

For myself, I’ve learned a lot of new things operationally. I’m quite involved in this. But F&B is very different from retail. I’m very lucky because I’ve surrounded myself with people who know what they are doing, so I don’t have to worry. Our café serves Mediterranean-European cuisine with a few Asian dishes on the menu. Our popular dishes are the Cardamom Risotto and the Soba Noodles, which I think you should try.

What is the outlook for FJ Benjamin?

We will always be in the retail market. It is in our DNA. We won’t place a particular focus on either bricks-and-mortar or e-commerce. We will look at doing businesses that are consumer-facing. All that requires expertise in wholesale and distribution, which we are good at and have experience in. For example, we have a whole range of baby products that we’re selling wholesale to different stores. The strategy is to diversify into things gradually and not immediately. Ultimately, we want to ensure that everything we do has to be scalable and sustainable for growth. Retail is our cornerstone, but staying open to new opportunities is good.

I see a lot of potential for Avenue on 3 to grow and evolve into an immersive space to meet the needs of shoppers today. We have so much to do!

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