WISHING trees. Cherry blossoms. Fortune wheels. Chinese New Year may still be weeks away but the shopping malls are already deck out in festive decorations.
“It’s all about creating that festive energy. You’ve got to put shoppers in the mood,” said BBKLCC Tourism Association committee member Kung Suan Ai.
Kung, who is part of an organisation that promotes shopping tourism and activities in Bukit Bintang and the city centre, said festive decorations had evolved to become a critical factor in attracting customers, especially in the age of social media.
“People take a selfie of themselves with a gorgeous background. Their friends see the post and they want to go to the place and take a look for themselves,” said Kung.
The challenge for industry players is to establish unique identities in their festive trims.
As this is the Year of the Monkey, the animal has become a main subject in five of the seven malls visited for this article.
One awesome display of the Monkey God stands in Berjaya Times Square, Kuala Lumpur, in the form of a giant statue.
At Main Place in USJ, Subang Jaya, the monkey takes a starring role in an elaborate “Journey To The West” setting. Over at Setapak Central in Kuala Lumpur, they are sold as cuddly soft toys.
Inspiration, said Kung, can come from as far as the Champs Elysee in Paris or Singapore’s Orchard Road.
“Six months before, we must already know what we want,” said Kuala Lumpur Pavilion senior manager of visual merchandising Lee Chee Hoe.
Lee is especially proud of pulling off what he calls the big switcheroo with Fahrenheit 88.
Just three days after the Christmas decorations were taken down, the lobby was already awash in cherry blossoms and swinging monkeys.
While decoration budgets can run into seven figures with some, Lee stresses that fat expenditures do not always equal great displays.
“It still boils down to creativity. And passion,” he said.
So in establishing this uniqueness, how do the malls ensure they do not end up with too-similar concepts?
IOI City Mall advertising and promotion manager Katy Teo said the mall industry was still small.
“It’s possible to foresee what everyone will do just by looking at past years’ trends,” she said.
A wishing tree beckons shoppers to seek resolve with Lady Hope at IOI City Mall.
This year, instead of using the monkey as a mascot, they have put their hopes in a spinning wishing tree. It will be a symbol of the dearest desires in everyone’s hearts.
Sungei Wang Plaza in Kuala Lumpur also stands out with their “A Union of Hundred Lions” theme. Shoppers will no doubt hear them roar with scheduled performances throughout the festive season.
Red, love it or hate it, will always be the dominating colour. The crimson drapes at the festive kiosks at Setia City Mall in Setia Alam, Shah Alam, inadvertently brings back scenes from “Dreams Of A Red Chamber.”
Takes a bit of fanciful imagination to get there, but it’s not going to be too difficult judging from the fairytale settings of cherry blossoms and red lanterns hanging around the malls.