THE Mara Digital Mall in Kuala Lumpur was meant to be an outlet for bumiputra retailers to market the latest electronic gadgets, laptops, and smartphones.
Located at Level 3 of Bangunan Mara near hotspots with high footfalls such as Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Sogo shopping centre and Pertama Complex, it had all the right ingredients for vibrant business.
However, four years since its inception in December 2015, the digital mall is now struggling to stay afloat.
Empty lots and closed shops are a common sight, with few shoppers spotted on a regular weekday.
A laptop salesman who gave his name as Ahmad Adli, said the shop sometimes did not make sales for a whole week.
“Computer sales is seasonal. We only see a spike in sales during college admission times when students come here to buy laptops.
“We offer repair services to supplement our revenue, ” he said.
He also claimed that the retailers made smaller profits because they obtained their products from a single supplier.
“And we are unable to give discounts to buyers, unlike retailers elsewhere who source from multiple suppliers.”
He hopes more can be done to promote the mall.
Another laptop salesman Mirza Mohd Azmi said they make 10 sales monthly on average.
“I think the issue stems from lack of promotion. Most people do not even know where this mall is located.
“However, our product quality is the same as the products from other stores in other locations, ” added Ahmad.
Liza Mohamad, who works at a smartphone shop, said they could only sell on average three cellphones a day.
“The business here is not as vibrant as it used to be when the mall first opened.
“However, the sales of phone accessories are still going strong, ” she said.
A sales staff at another shop, who declined to be named, said many former co-workers had moved to other busier outlets.
“Many felt there was no point in staying put if they were not making much profit, ” said the worker.
The Rural Development Ministry, in a written response posted on the Parliament website on Oct 17, said Mara Digital Mall Kuala Lumpur made gross annual sales of RM4.67mil as of August this year.
“The mall has 11 lots and 16 kiosks involving 11 entrepreneurs.
“A detailed study will be conducted before new branches are opened in the future, ” the statement read.
“Mara Digital Mall in Kuantan and Johor Baru both ceased operations permanently in December 2018 and February this year respectively, due to poor sales performance and high operating cost, ” the statement added.
On Oct 27, Bernama quoted Rural Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun as saying that businesses in Mara malls enjoyed lower rentals compared to market rates.
“Mara premises were built to help uplift small-time entrepreneurs.
“All future Mara premises to be built will undergo a detailed study to ensure there is sufficient demand, ” she said.
StarMetro reached out to the mall management via multiple channels for comment, first via email on Oct 8 then dropping a direct message to its Facebook account on Nov 8. This reporter also visited its office on Oct 8 and made numerous phone calls to the office, including yesterday morning. All attempts were unsuccessful.
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