JB City Square a pride of 2 nations

JOHOR Baru City Square, opened in 1999, is the most successful retail complex in Johor Baru. 

Located in the bustling Jalan Wong Ah Fook in the city centre, it is the one shopping centre that Johoreans can be proud of. 

Standing on a former site of a wet market-cum-bus-and-taxi terminal, the complex is the most prestigious retail complex in Johor Baru. 

“We are the third most successful shopping complex in Malaysia after Suria KLCC and Mid Valley Megamall,’’ centre manager Cheah Yoke Lian said in an interview with StarBiz

Cheah Yoke Lian says Johor Baru City Square has a 100% occupancy rate and gets 1.5 million visitors monthly.

The five-level shopping centre, with a gross floor area of 450,000 sq ft and 300 retailers, is a popular spot among local and Singaporean shoppers. 

It has everything under one roof for customers, including food and beverage outlets offering local and international fare, cinema complex, entertainment and amusement centre, fashion boutiques, and banks. 

“Johor Baru City Square records a 100% occupancy rate and receives about 1.5 million visitors monthly,’’ she said. 

The Singapore Tourism Board set up its information counter at the complex early this year, making it the first shopping centre in Malaysia to have such facility.  

Johor Baru City Square is also the first retail complex in Johor to be acquired by GIC Real Estate Ltd (GIC RE), the real estate investment arm of Singapore government. 

On May 31, GIC RE concluded the purchase of a 70% stake in the RM465mil retail and car park complex, while the Kuok group holds the balance. 

She said a plan was also in the pipeline to re-launch the 35-storey condominium project previously named The Horizon Tower, which was part of the complex. 

Cheah said the project was delayed several times due to unfavourable events, such as the mid-1997 Asian financial crisis, the Iraq war as well as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and avian flu outbreaks. 

The condominium block would have 350 apartment units ranging from studio apartments to penthouses. 

It would be the first condominium block to be built right in the middle of the business district centre of Johor Baru. 

Cheah said that prior to the opening of Johor Baru City Square, shoppers in Johor Baru did not have much choice in terms of “shopping experience”. 

She said there was nothing to shout about the retail scene in Johor Baru despite the fact that it was the second most developed city in Malaysia, after Kuala Lumpur. 

Johor Baru City Square was positioned as the lifestyle, hip and happening complex targeted at shoppers aged between 15 and 30 years and the middle income group. 

“Positioning helps to differentiate the complex from other retail outlets in Johor Baru and at the same time, create a strong image,’’ she said. 

One way of doing that was to have quality tenants under one roof, or names which were already well known in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. 

The complex was supposed to have an anchor tenant but it decided to pull out, citing economic uncertainties as the reason, as the complex started operations during the Asian financial crisis. 

To solve the matter, the management had decided to take in specialty stores as tenants, which were “something new” in Johor Baru at that time. 

Cheah said not having an anchor tenant was not an issue, as most shopping complexes within Johor Baru did not have anchor tenants.  

She said Johor Baru City Square was also the first shopping complex in Johor Baru to have international specialty coffee outlets which were already a craze in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. 

Cheah attributed the mall's success to its strategic location, experienced and reputable centre management team, as well as functional and well-planned layouts. 

Other factors include creative marketing and advertising campaigns, regular maintenance and housekeeping, ample car parking bays, well-planned and integrated security measures, and friendly customer service. 

Following news of criminal activities taking place at shopping complexes’ basement car parks in Kuala Lumpur, the management had decided to install 200 closed circuit TVs. She said shoppers’ safety was the main priority, adding that the complex has to create confidence among them. 

Cheah said since the complex was also popular with Singaporeans, which made up 40% of total customers, its marketing or promotion events also included artistes from the republic. 

In January this year, the management launched the Bliss Card – making it the first shopping complex in the country to have such a facility. 

The card acted as a smart card which motorists could use to access car parks and pay for their parking fees. It also acts as a discount and loyalty programme card.  

“Response is good and we are targeting to have 100,000 cardholders by the end of 2006,’’ she said. 

Cheah said the complex was “blessed” as it was located in the main road of the city centre, which had recently been upgraded by the State Government.