Christmas cheer-ing up in the pandemic

Shoppers will be able to soak in Suria KLCC’s cheerful Christmas decorations this year, which is themed "Unlock A Christmas Surprise”.

EVEN Covid-19 cannot stop the Christmas splendour in our shopping centres this year.

Malls are not only decked with sparkly decorations, but many included special elements to lift the spirits of shoppers during such difficult times.

Some malls in the Klang Valley wanted to give shoppers a treat by recreating the wintry Christmas ambience in Western countries – to make up for the travel ban this year.

Others have meaningful messages behind the festive facade to remind Malaysians to keep looking on the bright side, even as the movement control order (MCO) continues.

One big difference this year, though – some malls will not be having performances to avoid crowds for public health and safety.

For this Christmas, Sunway Malls feels it’s timely for everybody to be reminded of our blessings even after a tumultuous year.

The group’s theme this year is “Blessed Christmas” – to bring back the focus to the many positive things in life.

“This includes national solidarity, community kinship and familial relationships in battling Covid-19, ” says Sunway Malls and Theme Parks chief executive officer H.C. Chan.

Certainly, it has been a challenging year.

“But it’s also an inspiring year of selfless acts and courage by ordinary Malaysians, ” Chan tells Sunday Star.

The main difference this year is that its theme is more introspective.

The decorations are scaled down, but this is to comply with standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the new normal, rather than about budget.

“Decorations are put up with ample physical distancing in mind.

“The budget for decorations is then re-channelled towards our corporate social responsibility to help affected communities, ” Chan says, adding that the group has seven malls across the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor.

He says malls have become a platform of festive cheer for Malaysians, but now, they are also a sanctuary from the challenging times we live in.

While the government has allowed interstate travel, Covid-19 is still here.

“We hope to achieve 60% to 70% of normal visitor traffic this month, given that the year-end festive season is traditionally the strongest for the industry, ” he says.

But as people are still encouraged to stay home as much as possible, Chan believes there has to be a balance.

“The onus is on all of us to comply with the SOPs when we are out and about, ” he says.

In the heart of Kuala Lumpur, shoppers will be able to soak in Suria KLCC’s warm and colourful decorations themed “Unlock A Christmas Surprise”.

The mall is also giving away over RM1mil worth of rewards to shoppers.

“Life is a little different this year, but the Suria KLCC Group still wants to create a festive atmosphere at our malls.

“With all the campaigns held thus far, we believe we’re able to make a difference by continuing to reward shoppers, ” says Suria KLCC Sdn Bhd CEO and executive director Andrew Brien.

A number of measures have been placed in the mall to protect everybody’s health and safety.

“All malls, particularly those operated by the group (Suria KLCC, Alamanda Putrajaya and Mesra Mall in Terengganu), are not only safe, but also attractive places to be during the holiday season, ” he says.

The group is determined to uphold traditions such as the Christmas festivities to encourage the public to keep their hopes up and persevere in the face of difficulty.

“We expect 2021 to improve slightly once the vaccination is implemented.

“Once the borders are opened, we hope the tourism industry will be revived, ” Brien adds.

Meanwhile, some malls wanted to give shoppers a feel of Christmas in other countries since our borders were closed this year.

One of them is the 1 Utama shopping centre in Petaling Jaya, which re-enacted a cozy Nordic Christmas for visitors.

The mall’s Oval area has been transformed into a Scandinavian woodland, featuring a magical gnome village.

The theme revolves around a family of gnomes spreading the Christmas spirit, bringing good luck to shoppers during these challenging times.

“Our Christmas celebration has always been an annual event that many look forward to as it brings everyone together to celebrate this joyous season.

“We hope our Scandinavian Christmas will bring encouragement, love and most importantly brighten spirits as we wrap up a challenging 2020 and usher in 2021 with more excitement, ” says 1 Utama’s advertising and promotions senior manager Chai Ai Ping.

This is the first time the mall will not have any Christmas shows or Santa Claus appearances for health and safety purposes.

But it continues to reward shoppers through its online platforms and over-the-counter redemptions.

Shoppers can also make purchases at the comfort of their own homes and still be rewarded with gifts and deals.

Meanwhile, The Gardens Mall brought Europe to visitors, with its vibrant “Winter Wanderlust” theme, set amid red, white and golden hues.

“With the travel ban, many families had to cancel their vacations.

“The mall decor is meant to allow shoppers to imagine themselves walking down the streets of a European cosmopolitan city, lined with Christmas trees and little shop fronts, ” the mall explains.

The only major change is the decision to not have performances.

“This is because it would encourage crowds to gather and watch, and it’s important to us to encourage physical distancing, ” it adds.

Instead, the mall is using social media to run various rewards and giveaway programmes for shoppers.

“While there is a decrease in visitor traffic, we are optimistic that it will increase this month with Christmas shopping, ” the mall says.

Describing 2020 as a year unlike any other, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur chief executive officer (retail) Datuk Joyce Yap says Christmas remains a special time of year for many.

“Pavilion KL’s festive decorations are renowned for bringing people together, regardless of race or religion, ” she says.

This year, the mall wanted to create a meaningful celebration that touches the hearts of Malaysians.

“The pandemic has prompted us to reflect and appreciate what we have, inspiring our Christmas theme ‘Golden Christmas Memories’, ” Yap explains.

This year, it collaborated with a French luxury brand to present a special Holiday Tree at the mall’s main entrance – a first-of-its-kind in South-East Asia and one of three displayed globally, alongside Taipei and Paris.

There were no budget cuts, but an increase instead for its Christmas celebration to ensure an unforgettable experience for shoppers.

“Our RM1mil Cash Voucher Bonanza, a rewards programme, offers shoppers even more value when they shop at Pavilion KL this Christmas, ” Yap highlights.

Due to international travel restrictions, there’s obviously been a reduction in international tourists.

“However, since our Christmas decor was up, we noticed significantly more shoppers at the mall.

“But they are likely to come to the mall at non-peak times like weekdays.

“Shoppers are also unlikely to spend long hours here like they used to, but instead, dine and shop before returning home immediately, ” Yap says.

About Malaysians being asked to stay home as much as possible, Yap says reports have shown that this pandemic has led to great mental stress.

“We believe that retail therapy can play a role in easing anxiety and offer people the opportunity to relax, ” she says.

As for Fahrenheit88, under the Pavilion KL management, shoppers can soak in the Christmas ambience centered on the “Joy Of Gifting” theme to spread love and positivity.

With its 6m-tall Christmas tree welcoming visitors, the mall is also having the “Bernard Chandran Dreams & Reality” Fashion Exhibition – a free exhibition showcasing the works of Malaysian fashion designer, Datuk Bernard Chandran.

But while the malls are lit with dazzling decorations, one thing’s for sure – the public must still practise SOPs to ensure they have a safe and happy Christmas.

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