Retailers find niche in fringes of towns

CONSUMERS today are not just buying from mega malls and upscale boutiques in shopping complexes, but also from specialty retail shops found in the fringes of urban areas. 

Retailers now are finding their niche in areas like the crowded Jalan Masjid India and Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman, resulting in strong demand for properties that seemed to fit somewhere in between the perennial weekend “pasar malam'' to air-conditioned units in shopping centres. 

Demand for shophouses in the area around Jalan Masjid India, also known as “Pekan India”, has been escalating as keen retailers seek to participate in the growing tourist as well as local market for specialty items such as carpets, perfume, various religious paraphernalia, jewellery and ethnic attires. 

“Business for Zeenath Begum Jewellers (one of the gold shops in Jalan Masjid India) has been gratifying, as we had just opened another outlet in the area,” said director Syed Akbar Ali. 

“This place has given birth to some of the big names in the retail industry like Mun Loong and Kamdar (textile and traditional attire specialist) as well as Habib Jewels (gold and jewellery experts).  

“It is now also home to wholesale supermarket Mydin, which is very popular among the locals.  

“The catchment area here contains a population of at least 10,000 people,” Syed Akbar said. 

He said upcoming foreigners known for their immense purchasing power in Jalan Masjid India were Malays from Singapore and Brunei, who would often stay during the weekends for buying sprees involving items like gold, textiles and groceries. 

“Tourists from India, Pakistan, the Middle East countries, South Korea and China have played a big part as the bread and butter for most retailers here,” Syad Akbar said. 

It is learnt that volume of property transactions in Jalan Masjid India has been rising with buyers willing to fork out between RM7mil to RM7.5mil for a single four-storey shoplot, with asking price for ground floor units to reach between RM1.4mil to RM1.6mil.  

A source close to the property market revealed that rental rates for shophouses in Jalan Masjid India was one of the highest in Kuala Lumpur reaching RM22 per square feet to RM25psf for ground floor units measuring 1,540square feet. 

“Monthly rental for the entire four-storey building will cost about RM40,000 per month with the ground floor alone to cost about RM34,000 per month,” the source said, adding that many retailers would not mind paying a hefty premium for the shoplots in exchange for a business opportunity there as brand recognition among customers comes fast. 

“Changes in the ownership and tenant occupancies happen very often as well,” Syed Akbar said. 

With gradually growing material affluence of our society, Syed Akbar said, the trade here is converging towards to high-end goods like jewellery and gold items. 

Syed Akbar also said his outlet’s sales picked up in September this year as consumer sentiment was lifted after the Government announced a bonus payment of between one month and one-and-a-half months in Budget 2005. 

“Most of our regular customers are Government employees who work and live in this area,” Syed Akbar said. 

Another sole proprietor who operates a wholesale outlet selling perfume, stationeries and various Islamic religious items in Jalan Masjid India for the last three decades said that the outlet’s sales had been increasing 10% to 20% every month. 

“With the current boom in tourism from the Middle East, I foresee that our sales next year will be very good. People including foreign tourists come here because they can find a wide variety of goods including halal foods at reasonable prices,” he said.  

But the only problem here is the pile up of hawkers and peddlers by the roadside during the Ramadan period, obstructing traffic and causing inconvenience to customers.  

Otherwise, this place is fantastic because the crowd here is so huge, the sole proprietor said. 

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