Beach Road Army Market

The Army Market at Beach Road is one of those old familiar places in Singapore that is famous for its consolidation of shops selling similar goods. Like the Sungei Road Thieves Market which sells second-hand stuffs, or Victoria Street Wholesale Centre that specialises in groceries and dry provisions, ask any male Singaporeans for sources of military apparel and paraphernalia and the answer you would likely to get is the Beach Road Army Market.

golden mile food centre and army market

Situated on the second level of Golden Mile Food Centre, beside Kampong Glam Community Club along Beach Road, the Army Market boasts 111 stalls, majority of them selling military gears ranging from camouflaged uniforms, boots and ponchos to sleeping bags, mosquito nets and Swiss knives. The Golden Mile Food Centre itself had a significant history. Opened in 1975 for the resettlement of the street hawkers from Jalan Sultan, it is now popular for its char kway teow, Hokkien mee, lor mee and chicken rice.

golden mile food centre and army market2

The Army Market had enjoyed brisk businesses especially during the nineties. Many of the older generations of male Singaporeans knew exactly where to get replacement for lost military items or equipment, so as to avoid signing the infamous SAF 1206 and receiving punishment. “Exotic” items were once on sale, but today the Army Market no longer carries illegal stuffs, especially after the high-profiled case in 2010 in which one of the storekeepers was fined and jailed for selling a M16 firing pin.

golden mile food centre and army market3

The introduction of eMart by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) since 1997 had a big impact to the decline of the Army Market. The convenience of having an eMart store in most military camps and the free credit system granted to every National Service (NS) personnel meant that traveling to Beach Road and forking out cash to buy basic apparel is no longer necessary.

Another blow to the Army Market would be the closure of the nearby Beach Road Camp in 2000.

golden mile food centre and army market4

golden mile food centre and army market5

The Army Market, however, still has its value as it sells extra items or provide services that are missing in eMart, such as helmets and the sewing of ranks and name tags for the camouflaged uniforms. But even this service took a hit in the late 2000s when the new pixel uniforms for SAF, designed with slot-on and Velcro features for ranks and badges, were introduced. In 2002, the Army Market underwent a makeover, with trendy stores selling vintage clothes moving in to fight for space with the original military-themed shops.

golden mile food centre and army market6

Almost all of the shopkeepers at the Army Market have bought their stores under the Government’s Stall Ownership Scheme in 1996. Today, the businesses have declined to an extent that many of the owners are struggling to earn just a few hundreds a month. With their 20-year leases expiring by the end of 2015, the owners, most of them already in their 60s and 70s, are pondering retirement and winding up their trades for good.

Sitting on the stretch of prime lands along Beach Road, there is a possibility that the premises of Beach Road Food Centre and the Army Market will be put up for private development after 2015. The Victoria Street Wholesale Centre had already shut down, while the Sungei Road Thieves Market will soon make way for the construction of MRT Downtown Line. Will the Army Market suffer the same fate of demolition?

Published: 30 March 2013

15 Responses to Beach Road Army Market

  1. I visited the Army Market this morning but only half of the stores were opened. Many were closed and put up for rental. It seems inevitable that this place will be gone sooner or later…

    Can’t help but feel sad

  2. Tim says:

    Redeveloping this area would be really a sad thing but then again, i fear our country is slowly losing it’s soul in such actions in the name of ‘redevelopment’

    • aliogoi says:

      Agree – It is the soul of places that take years to develop. It is a interaction between places and people and time … something not scientific but so true. The problem is places that have been around for some time and have developed that `soul’ … are being taken down. But when I drive pass Ama Keng …. I can still feel the soul of the place . . . I guess it is in the head …

  3. Tim says:

    Was there this afternoon around 4pm. Most of the shops are open(with about 1/4 of the shops showing ‘for rent’ signs. Looking at the proximity to the Kampang Glam CC as well as the general small area( there is only a small open space car park just beside the food center/market, I hope they won’t be redeveloping this place. Unfortunately , the shops in the army market may have been in a sunset type of industry, i do hope things will get better .

  4. kaiser says:

    Well for me I still wish they are there after the leased so that we can show the next generation of the stuff that are there.

  5. Lim Ah Seng 林雅成 says:

    Someone actually created a website dedicated to the Army Market,

  6. pius zai says:

    got sell beret there anot?

  7. Trying to find anyone who was in the WRAC and stationed at Tanglin Barracks in 65 – 68

  8. Zilhanz says:

    Does it sells butterfly knives?

  9. General Useless says:

    Firing pin for sale? really

  10. Moon says:

    Is it open today? ?? ( 5/8/2015 )

  11. Army market vendors hit by double whammy

    The Straits Times
    18 August 2015

    The unauthorised sale of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) apparel and equipment is an offence, but these items are still openly sold on China’s popular Taobao e-commerce website.

    Such online competition, coupled with an impending lease expiry, have added to the woes of vendors at the Beach Road army market. On Taobao, items such as uniforms, kneepads, elbow guards, water pouches, boots and even berets can be found.

    The army’s chief supply officer, Colonel Keith Ho, said: “We wish to stress that the unauthorised sale of SAF equipment by servicemen and contracted suppliers is prohibited and we take a serious view on this matter.” He added: “We advise servicemen to procure their personal equipment from authorised sources like the SAF eMart or from the official online eMart website, which can be found on the NS portal.”

    The unauthorised sale of SAF gear is an offence under military law. Those guilty of misappropriation or theft of SAF property can be jailed for up to three years.

    In 1997, the armed forces introduced the SAF eMart, in which personnel are given credits to buy equipment online or at eMart outlets. But the unauthorised sale of SAF equipment online has still been reported. In 2010, for example, army-issued helmets were put up for sale on online forums HardwareZone and Gumtree.

    In 2012, freesheet My Paper reported that more than 10 vendors were hawking cotton T-shirts or singlets with the SAF logo on Taobao.

    Meanwhile, the availability of army items online has affected the business of the Beach Road army market located on the second storey of the 38-year-old Golden Mile Food Centre. Only a handful of the shops there still sell army gear. Most of the owners of these shops are in their 60s and 70s. Other shops have turned to selling outdoor gear and camping equipment. Most of the shops selling authorised army gear were sold under the Government’s Stall Ownership Scheme in 1996 for about $60,000 per unit. When the stalls’ 20-year leases expire in December, they will be returned to the Government and stallholders will become tenants.

    Businesses said profits have halved compared with five years ago. Shop owner Jeffrey Yap said: “It’s very quiet now. People prefer to go online.

    “There used to be a lot of people here on weekends in the past.”

    The 65-year-old opened his shop 20 years ago, but stopped selling military gear about three years back. “I now focus on backpacks, camping equipment, deck chairs and water bottles,” he said.

    A 75-year-old shop owner, who gave her name only as Madam Liew, said in Malay: “There used to be a lot of people here but business now is difficult.” Her 30-year-old shop has T-shirts, socks, backpacks and “a little bit of everything”, including glow sticks.

    Mr Lim Gin Peng, 75, who has been selling army gear for 25 years, has also been hit by online competition. He said: “People want things cheap and compare them to eMart prices. But I need to profit also.”

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