PETALING JAYA (Aug 24): Despite concerns over a possible oversuply of retail malls in the Klang Valley, the authorities should not freeze the development of new shopping malls because that would further dampen the already slow economy in the country, said Malaysia Shopping Malls Association (PPK) adviser Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok.

“Although there are challenges faced by malls and there is an influx of them in recent times, which have led to suggestions that the government should perhaps freeze shopping mall developments, I think that is the worst thing that could happen,” said Teo, who is also director of Bandar Utama City Corp Sdn Bhd, the developer of 1 Utama Shopping Centre in Bandar Utama.

“I think it is down to the entrepreneur or investor himself to do proper feasibility studies. Freezing approvals would be a wrong move as the financial or investment decisions have to be left to the investors and entrepreneurs,” he said at a press conference during the “Breathing New Life Into Malls” seminar organised by PPK today.

Teo also urged the authorities to be more open in sharing information regarding approvals and planning submission as this will assist the industry in their planning and feasibility studies.

Another advisor to PPK, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur retail CEO Datuk Joyce Yap concurred, saying the government needs to understand how the industry operates in order to create a win-win situation for all stakeholders.

“We should all work together to drive the economy. And I agree on the information sharing, especially our demographic statistics which need to be updated and be more easily accessible instead of letting developers do guess work,” he said.

Meanwhile, PPK president Tan Sri Eddy Chen urged shopping mall developers to be more cautious in coming up with a new mall.

“If you’re thinking of building the next mall, you need more robust market research. Look into new areas with fast population growth such as Puncak Alam, perhaps. There is still growth opportunities [for the retail industry] but it needs careful planning,” he said.

Chen also called on Malaysian retailers to be prepared for cashless shopping.

“Malls will certainly have to get ready for this by investing in the infrastructure and systems. The future may come to a point where there will be no handling of cash — it is possible,” he added.

Meanwhile, for malls that have low occupancy rate, AREA Management Sdn Bhd senior advisor Kumar Tharmalingam, who was also at the press conference, suggested that mall owners bring in a service provider as a tenant to increase footfall.

“In the US, e-commerce giant Amazon has converted a mall into their returning centre. So, if you’re having difficulty filling up your mall, hire a service provider to occupy say the top floor.

“Even if you’re collecting cheap rental from them [the service providers], you have more people coming to your mall to return their online shopping items and spend money while they’re there,” he said.

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