The never-ending growth and proliferation of shopping malls!
In many Asian countries today, a widespread devotion to shopping is setting an unprecendented trend, whereby shopping is a pastime or leisure activity. This is undoubtedly every retailer’s dream come true. The monumental growth of digital e-commerce has begun to pose a grave threat to the existence and survival of ‘brick-and-mortar’ shops and stores worldwide. Global consumers are demanding greater access to retail options as well as inventory pricing for a more meaningful, immersive and hassle-free shopping experience. Mall managers, product retailers and e-commerce players must acknowledge the fact that the future of retail is constantly changing. It is about creating a unique shopping experience that transcends and combines the best of both worlds via various social media platforms. Trend-setting malls provide people with experiences they just cannot live without. Developers build futuristic experiential spaces, and offer advanced retail options for leisure shopping. The fundamental focus is not only on potential purchases per se, but on being provided a special and memorable experience. It is all about merging online conveniences with offline experiences, in the quest for the illusive shopping ‘X-factor’, where hype and happenings in retail converge.
A plethora of shopping malls
To date, Malaysia has over 600 major malls and shopping centres. With such an impressive repertoire of malls, it is naturally obvious that Malaysia has long been branded as one of Asia’s top shopping destinations, alongside Singapore, of course. As a renowned shopping haven within this region, Malaysia is uniquely positioned as having among the best mix of product offerings as well as professional services that cater to all shoppers – be it local citizens or foreign tourists. Kuala Lumpur’s famous Golden Triangle is one such shopping hub within the city centre itself. From luxury shopping centres, premier retail institutions to neighbourhood malls, there is always something for everyone. For shopaholics, there is no better place than the so-called “mega malls” which Malaysia is famous for. Several notable prime examples are none other than Mid Valley Megamall (Kuala Lumpur), Berjaya Times Square (Kuala Lumpur), IOI City Mall (Putrajaya), Empire City Mall (Damansara Perdana), Damansara City Mall (Damansara Heights), Suria KLCC (Kuala Lumpur), Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall (Subang Jaya), and 1 Utama Shopping Centre (Petaling Jaya). One Utama, located on the outskirts of capital Kuala Lumpur, is one the world’s largest malls – ranked fourth globally in terms of ‘net lettable area’ (NLA), with over 465,000 square metres of retail space, and filled with over 650 retail shops. The mall also boasts Asia’s largest indoor rock-climbing gym, an expansive rooftop garden, and a dedicated self-sustaining indoor rainforest with built-in jumbo aquarium within its premises.
For the ultimate luxury mall experience, Pavilion Mall offers some of the world’s finest selections of luxury goods and high-end merchandise money can buy. An impressive array of designer stores with world-class brands line the window displays of its retail shops. Just a stone’s throw away across the main street is the elegant Starhill Shopping Gallery – a cool and chic shopping oasis, with many branded boutiques and household names in global fashion. And if you desire some sightseeing with your shopping extravaganza, there is no better shopping mall than Suria KLCC – situated at the base of the iconic twin towers of Petronas KLCC. Like many other upscale malls, it offers an abundant array of established brand names, and premier selection of beauty houses. Indeed, there is always a mall out there to satisfy and fulfill all of your shopping needs and requirements.
Redefining the modern mall
Malaysia has always been a great place to shop for gadgetry and Klang Valley is no exception. Low Yat Plaza, in KL’s Bukit Bintang district, is a tech haven or paradise for gadget enthusiasts and gizmo aficionados alike, with its four dedicated floors hosting some five hundred technology retailers. It may be a distant world away from the glitz and glamour of Starhill Gallery or Pavilion, but the mere thrill of hunting down the latest tech stuff at bargain prices makes it well worth a visit indeed. Alternatively, there is the Digital Mall PJ, just adjacent to the new Jaya Shopping Centre at Section 14, Petaling Jaya. And there is also Publika, a neighbourhood lifestyle mall at Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur. Purpose-built to create a platform for design talents, its core theme focuses on art galleries, classic bookshops, contemporary eateries, as well as niche brands, ranging from luxury boutiques to fashion designers. The island state of Penang too has a number of popular malls such as Komtar Tower, Queensbay Mall, Gurney Paragon, Gurney Plaza and First Avenue. Famed for the street foods and hawker fare more than anything else, they typically house modern cinemas, karaoke hubs, street bazaars, art corners, café lounges, eclectic restaurants, as well as community hypermarts.
The great Malaysian mall culture is not only sited in metropolitan cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, and Shah Alam – the four major cities where most of the country’s major malls are mainly concentrated. The dazzling array of signature stores, retail spaces and food courts in Malaysian malls seems suffice to whet the appetite of even the most avid and discerning mall shoppers. Furthermore, there is even more reason to go on a shopping spree, specifically during the annual ‘1Malaysia Year-End Sale’ or ‘Malaysian Mega Sale Fest’, which takes place between November and January. Fast-fashion emporiums, luxury boutiques and niche brands alike cut & slash prices to create a more compelling and rewarding shopping experience for both local shoppers as well as tourists.
To freeze, or not to freeze…
According to the Malaysian Retailer-Chains Association (MRCA), the Government needs to temporarily freeze issuing licences for new shopping malls to curb the oversupply of retail space. The number of shopping malls is likely to grow between 2017 and 2018, which will put undue burden and pressure on the profit margins of small & medium enterprises as well as retailers. A projected increase of over fifty percent of shopping mall space over the course of two years will continue to crowd and congest the already saturated mall market. There are already too many shopping malls, including the ones nearing completion as well as those still under planning, which will put further stress and strain on SMEs and the retailers’ market share as well as their competitive edge. The retail industry is currently being impacted by economic stagnation and property downturn due to the ringgit’s slump, and the overall increase in overhead cost of doing business.
The general sluggishness of the real estate market particularly the retail sector is also attributed to the rising cost of living. The spending power of the people has been reduced substantially due to the weakening of the local currency. The escalating cost of goods and merchandise is to blame as well. Freezing mall licences will invariably assist local traders by curbing the oversupply of retail goods flooding the market, but it is merely a temporary stop-gap measure. Shopping malls have inadvertently become international ambassadors of sorts with their enormous brand presence reflected by the burgeoning local tourism industry. This is thanks in no small part to the myriad of malls spreading throughout the country, specifically within Greater Klang Valley. Ironically, the weaker ringgit has led to the influx of tourists by the millions annually which contribute to national revenue and financial coffers in terms of foreign tax dollars.
Smart malls of the future
Imagine a shopping mall whereby you can try on outfits virtually, learn about where and how merchandise are made before purchasing them, consume food products made with special ingredients sourced from urban farms, or to meet and mingle with like-minded hobbyists and enthusiasts. Equipped with cutting-edge technologies such as data analytics, facial recognition, voice control, self-automation, and virtual reality, malls could eventually become intelligent enough to predict your shopping needs and habits, even prior to physically entering and exploring the malls themselves. Personalized services such as mobile apps, virtual concierge and electronic shopping will be the next-gen wave in retail shopping. Emerging technologies in the immediate as well as upcoming years will ensure that shopping malls would remain and stay relevant in the foreseeable future.
During recent years, technology has been a fundamental force and catalyst in revolutionizing shopping malls. Social trends and demographics such as urbanization are gradually moving people out of rural areas into city centres. Minimalist-inspired city homes are designed to be more compact and space-efficient. This has resulted in greater public spaces for urban dwellers to interact among themselves. Coupled with the popularity of integrated developments, where residents live, work and play under one roof, malls have essentially become the crux of urban living, often serving as one-stop destinations for neighbourhoods and communities. In malls of the future, retail stores will co-exist alongside areas whereby people socialize and chill with an essential host of amenities such as sky parks, skating rinks and movie theatres that form a crucial component of the retail enclave. The shopping mall sector and industry have also become increasingly people-centric. Mall managers and retailers are putting more effort into understanding the needs and requirements of shoppers by providing them with more exclusive and customizable services. Real estate developers are continuously building game-changing retail centres that are transforming malls into a unique, immersive and meaningful shopping experience. Shopping has truly become a retail therapy of sorts that we simply cannot live without! – HFM