MALAYSIA'S iconic retail destination, Suria KLCC, looks set for a higher profile with an expansion under way and the unveiling of new specialty stores at the shopping mall.
The six-level Suria KLCC, which anchors the base of the Petronas Twin Towers, the world's tallest twin towers, will see an addition of 140,000 sq ft of net lettable area to the 1 million sq ft shopping mall.
Suria KLCC Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Andrew Brien says that in response to demand for space from retailers, KLCC Property Holdings Bhd, the main shareholder of Suria KLCC, has undertaken the development of the new retail space as part of the office development adjacent to Suria KLCC.
“The new retail component will be a seamless integration to Suria KLCC at the Ramlee Mall end on the south side of Suria KLCC. It will be an extension of brands, design and architecture.
“Targeted for completion by June, it will feature more than 30 specialty outlets including international high-end specialty stores such as flagship Cartier and Chanel stores, a new Giorgio Armani store and South-East Asia's first Armani Caf,” Brien adds.
One of the main highlights will be the remarkable interior architecture only available in Milan, Paris or New York, he says, adding that the additional parking space will be linked to the current existing parking structure.
As the owner operator of the mall, Suria KLCC continuously adopts and adapts best practices and benchmark the shopping mall against the world's best to keep up with shoppers' expectations, Brien says.
“This has in turn led to our retail partners benchmarking themselves against the best in their respective category in the pursuit to meet customers' expectations,” he adds.
Starting in May, one of its anchor tenants, Isetan store will undergo a massive refurbishment to reinvigorate its overall look and feel, and add new features including a world-class food offer on the concourse level. New travelators will directly link the concourse level to levels one and two of the car park.
There are over 320 specialty outlets at Suria KLCC with each having its own strengths and specialties.
Among its anchor tenants are Isetan, Parkson Grand, TGV Cinemas and Marks & Spencer.
Some of the stores which are unique to Suria KLCC are Jimmy Choo, Brioni, Chanel, Aseana, Pucci, Emporio Armani, Giorgio Armani, Paul Smith, Replay, HIT Gallery, Kinokuniya, Ed Hardy and Harley Davidson.
Its other attractions include Galeri Petronas, featuring various types of art; and Petrosains, an interactive petroleum discovery centre. The shopping mall is also linked to Dewan Filharmonik, the country's premier concert hall.
To ensure Suria KLCC gets the right retail partners, Brien says the shopping mall benchmarks itself against global operators.
“We benchmark fashion retailer against major fashion retailers, we also benchmark with Malaysia brands and look at how those brands relate to international brands. After completing this process, we come up with a tenancy mix which we think is right for our mall based on the sales growth and positive reaction we receive from our customers.
“The fact that retailers at Suria KLCC have seen sales turnover of over RM2bil over the past year shows that the mall has the right tenant mix based on customers' wants and needs,” he says.
On complaints that there are now too much focus on foreign brands compared with home-grown brands in the mall, Brien says: “Retail is all about trends and change. It is also about responding to customer demand. A good mall operator must be able to change. “The internationalised brands will enjoy greater success as they transcend boundaries. This applies to Malaysian brands as well since some of them have gone big internationally.”
From 95 homegrown stores in May 2000, Suria KLCC now has 111, while the number of Malaysia-owned specialty stores have expanded from 184 to 242. Foreign-owned stores also increased to 83 from 77.
Addressing complaints that rental rates have risen sharply on each rental review, Brien says: “Suria KLCC's level of productivity per sq ft is growing from strength to strength.
“Given the size of the mall which is 1 million sq ft with over 40 million visitors and a sales turnover of RM2bil over the last 12 months, our retailers are reaping the benefits of a premium business environment. With a steady occupancy rate of over 99%, it proves that retailers have faith in our capability to operate the business professionally, meeting their expectations and bringing them to greater heights,” he adds.
Brien believes Malaysia's retail sector remains largely untapped given its young population and a steadily rising income level.
“Malaysia is classified as an upper-middle income country by the World Bank, with the proportion of middle-income households estimated at more than 50% in 2007.
“According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, urban households on average spent 1.8 times more than rural households between 2004 and 2005. Average income spending was RM2,285 a month in urban areas and RM1,301 a month in rural areas. With the urban population predicted to account for almost 76% of the total by 2015, this is likely to have a positive effect on retail sales,” he says.
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