A WIDE range of shopping malls – from prime malls in the city centre to niche shopping complexes in suburban areas – has spiced up the country's retail landscape.
Each of these retail properties caters to the growing population and changing lifestyles in the various localities.
The last decade saw a rapid growth of shopping centres in Malaysia, and there are now more than 200 shopping centres in the country with several new developments in the pipeline.
In the Klang Valley, upcoming new shopping centres include The Pavilion KL, Jusco in Bukit Tinggi, USJ Eighteen in Subang, NZX Shopping Centre in Ara Damansara, and Tropicana Mall in Damansara. In Penang, Queensbay and Sunway Carnival have just opened and Jusco at Perda is scheduled to open soon.
The trend has also caught on in East Malaysia, with several big shopping centres being developed there.
Besides new shopping centres, several established malls are under expansion, including Sunway Pyramid, Suria KLCC and Mid Valley.
Sunway City Bhd managing director (property investment) Ngeow Voon Yean said the availability of better quality retail space in Greater Kuala Lumpur had encouraged the entry of new fashion brands.
They include Robinsons, The Gap, Massimo Dutti, Ted Baker, Pull & Bear, Promod, Springfield, Colin’s & Loft, Roots, Okaidi, Obaibi, Forever 21 and Banana Republic.
It has also spurred departmental store players like Parkson to upgrade its outlets in Sunway Pyramid and Suria KLCC to move up the value chain of retail shopping.
“The quality of retail space in Malaysia ranks on par with those in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Australia – all considered shopping havens in the region,” Ngeow said.
Malaysia has five international award-winning shopping centres: Sunway Pyramid, Sungei Wang Plaza, The Starhill, Suria KLCC and 1 Utama. They have won the prestigious real estate Prix D’Excellence award. This signals the high calibre and quality of the country's shopping centres.
The vibrant and competitive retail sector has created world-class shopping mall managers to export their expertise overseas.
According to Ngeow, although China's retail industry is booming with some amazing world-class malls under development, the industry faces a shortage of retail property management and marketing expertise.
The SunCity group is exporting its expertise in retail management to mall operators in China's Shenzhen and Chong Qing provinces.
Zerin Properties head of investment Francis Quah said Malaysia’s strong economic growth, expanding young population, urban migration and increasing tourist arrivals had resulted in the strong performance of the retail property sector.
The number of tourists visiting the country is expected to increase to 20 million this year from 17.3 million last year.
To maximise the impact of tourism and spur the continual growth of the shopping mall industry, incentives in terms of duties, taxes and liberal regulations should be given to encourage more foreign retail players to bring in brands and add more depth to the local industry.
SunCity's Ngeow said the local retail sector also needed to address the need for continuous maintenance and service culture.
Industry-specific educational institutes should be set up to produce human capital well equipped with the correct skills and aptitudes of service and maintenance excellence.
“While most new malls do well, a lack of maintenance awareness has led to an absence of continuous value-adding and upgrading of the property to sustain the lifespan of the malls, resulting in the decay of older malls,” he said.
Ngeow said the industry also had room for improvement in the area of service excellence.
“There is a need for high quality personnel training in the field of shopping centre management, which is a key factor to better managed and successful shopping centres of international standard,” he said.