Retail sector smitten by big bug

Property Talk with S.C. CHEAH

AS the year draws to a close, one thing that may have caught many people's attention is the Malaysian fetish for “superlatives”. You know, things like the tallest, biggest, fastest, longest, and what have you. The same “big bug” seems to have hit our property market. 

Over the past few months, we have seen a spate of “biggest” this or that in the retail sector. Here's a brief list:  

·Ikano Power Centre: This is the first such centre in Asia and is the talk of the town since its opening on Dec 18. It revolutionises the traditional concept of retailing in Malaysia.  

Instead of three or four large anchor tenants in a shopping centre of say 100 to 500 retail outlets, this centre has only major stores with sizes ranging from 15,000 sq ft to a mind-boggling 70,000 sq ft! 

The “XXL” size stores have taken the breath away of many hardy shoppers. The Popular bookstore has 31,000 sq ft, Padini Concept boasts eight brands in one store of 20,000 sq ft, Ace Hardware has 20,000 sq ft with over 40,000 hardware and home improvement products while Malaysia's first Harvey Norman 4-in-1 superstore (furniture, bedding, electrical and IT products) hogs 70,000 sq ft. 

There is also Aussino taking up 15,000 sq ft (with more than 3,000 bed, bath and sleepwear products), Macy (21,000 sq ft of home and soft furnishings), The Pet Safari with its 30,000 sq ft safari adventure (it even has a clinic, a grooming centre and a hotel for your pets!), Hytex Town (30,000 sq ft of children's fashion apparel and accessories), Citadium (24,000 sq ft of sports apparel and equipment plus an 18-foot high climbing wall) and Rasa Fiesta Food Court and Cold Storage with its huge 31,000 sq ft of supermarket that includes Guardian pharmacy. Asia's biggest one-stop optical centre, the Focus Point Optical City, is also found here. 

The 11 anchor tenants take up 80% of Ikano Power Centre's 420,000 sq ft retail space. 

It's not just the sheer size that draws shoppers but the wide choices of products, some of them totally new in this country. 

This centre is linked to the adjacent IKEA at two levels and shoppers can pass through them in air-conditioned comfort and have their meals in the centre's eateries. 

When I visited the centre on its opening day, I was pleasantly surprised that there was not much of a crowd. Vehicular traffic had to turn into Damansara Perdana from the Damansara Puchong Highway (LDP). 

·MCC City at Plaza UE3: There were several attempts to liven up this quiet shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur by introducing a wholesale centre and a wedding city. Recently the E-Mall, a large electrical goods centre, was opened.  

This was followed by the opening of the d'Choice, a 65,000 sq ft supermarket that boasts products at “kampung prices”. 

·Nichii Fashion City: One can spend hours just looking at the many affordably priced ladies' dresses at this recently opened fashion centre at Jalan Sungai Besi. 

·1 Utama Shopping Centre: This popular shopping centre had the soft opening of its new RM300mil block this month. While its old block has Jaya Jusco as the main anchor tenant, the new block has U Parkson as the anchor departmental store (140,000 sq ft) and Giant Fresh (120,000 sq ft) as the anchor supermarket. 1 Utama's Jusco Home Centre and the large Eneos Car Centre are refreshing new additions. 

·Plaza Sungei Wang: This grand dame of shopping malls also underwent a transformation recently. Now it probably boasts one of the trendiest teen fashion centres in the country. Called T-Hop @ the RoofTop, it is a mecca for teenagers and the young at heart.  

There's the Cosmic Bowl (32-lane built-in “glow-in-the dark” bowling centre) and Red Box Karaoke with 42 rooms and the seven fun outlets of Hobby Centre.  

This centre was formerly an old roof top car park. 

·Berjaya Times Square: Debenhams, Britain's department store, opened its doors at this “mother of all malls” on Nov 17. 

And the list goes on: Transmark boasts Malaysia's biggest one-stop fitness showroom near USJ while Low Yat Plaza claims to have one of the single biggest computer outlets in the country. 

There is also the proposed China Product Centre at the Goldcourse shopping mall in Klang. Now we also have large textile centres like the Nilai 3 wholesale centre. 

Prima Paramount Sdn Bhd launched Malaysia's newest textile centre at its Pusat Bandar Baru Kajang on Dec 12.  

The retail scene is undergoing drastic changes as we see the “big fish” swallowing up the “smaller fish”. As an example, a supermarket in bustling SS2 town centre closed down many months ago.  

Competition is getting increasingly fierce as specialisation and size seems to be the watchword. How long can this last when there's only so much money to go around and people these days are generally more cautious with their spending? 

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