In Singapore, every able-bodied boy has to go through a rites of passage in which they grow from a boy to becoming a man. That rites of passage was known as National Service, or more commonly known as NS. Singaporean Sons will remember making the trip down to Beach Road in order to visit the famous Army Market in order to shop for any supplies that they may need before leaving for NS. With some shops opening as early as 10am to cater to the early birds that is looking forward to have breakfast after buying army supplies, and some shops closing as late as midnight to cater to those who needed to make last minute purchases. Beach Road Army Market was the one stop place in order to get anything army related.
Golden Mile Food Centre
Golden Mile Food Centre was created in 1975 in order to house the hawkers that had settled from Jalan Sultan Street Market. Although Golden Mile Food Centre is predominantly known as a place to enjoy delicious food, it was, and still is, more commonly known as ‘Beach Road Army Market’, ‘The Army Market’ or simply ‘Beach Road’ due to the sheer amount of army shops that is located above the food court itself. Generations of Singaporean Sons will know how iconic The Army Market was, due to the fact that Beach Road Army Market had established itself as a group of army supply shops, with many of the products sold being exclusive to The Army Market.
The Army Market enjoyed its Golden Age during the 1990′s, where the older generation NSmen and Reservists knew that The Army Market was the best place to go in order to get spare or replacement items at a last minute basis, in order to avoid the signing of the infamous SAF 1206(pronounced as twelve-O-six), which is the formal signed acknowledgement for the deduction of an NSmen’s payroll for the loss or damage of equipment. There even used to be a time when The Army Market stocked ‘weird’ and ‘useful’ items, but that time has past and now The Army Market has ‘washed its hands’, stocking only state and military legal items.
The Army Market is jammed packed with approximately 111 shops that sell army equipment such as the No.4 uniform, caps, army boots and army ranks, and also camping gear such as a tent, camping bags and sleeping bags for the occasional camper or trekker. Also, if you know how to bargain, you might also get certain items for a cheaper price.
Apart from these, The Army Market also sells miscellaneous products, such as casual t-shirts and custom name tags. They also cater to the various uniform groups in the primary schools and secondary schools in Singapore, in which students usually going there to sew on their name tags and ranks, or even to buy spare jockey caps.
However, the Beach Road Army Market has long lost its title of being Singapore’s main location of army supply shops. The introduction of the eMart by the Singapore Armed Forces since 1997 has allowed NSmen and Reservists with the option of getting their army equipment at more accessible and convenient locations, with the use of credits that will be given as an alternative of paying cash. Also, with the closure of Beach Road Army Camp nearby, The Army Market had lost its main target audience. To this day, students from uniform groups still visit Beach Road Army Market, but with that being such a small percentage, the loss of the shop owner’s businesses is apparent.
Despite these drawbacks, The Army Market still has people from all over the island, and even tourists visiting the market, either for products and services that other smaller Army Shops or even eMart offers, or just looking for products that are sold at a cheaper price as compared to other places. The external competition that Beach Road Army Market is facing is too overwhelming.
Through a wide range of shops located at The Army Market, the operational hours varies for each shop. However, most of the shops would have a standard operating time of 11am-6pm. Other shops could open as early as 10am and close till as late as 8pm. Not to mention, a few of the shops would be closed on certain days as well.
All in all, The Army Market is one of the most iconic, yet under-rated places in Singapore. It is considered a real gem in the minds of most people who have seen the Beach Road Army Market since its humble beginnings. It would be a shame for such a place with such a history, going through the obstacles and challenges it went through, to bow out of business just because of other smaller businesses rising.