City & Country: Jaya Grocer opens upmarket outlet in KL

Jaya Grocer’s design was inspired by the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia

ONE could be forgiven for thinking that the new Jaya Grocer at The Intermark in Kuala Lumpur resembles the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia. In fact, the iconic market had an influence on the supermarket’s seventh outlet.

“We were inspired by the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne but decided to replicate a market street akin to a Malaysian pasar pagi or day market,” says Jaya Grocer’s operations manager Daniel Teng, who played a key role in the design of the supermarket. Among the similarities are the fresh produce, the open space and the variety of items available.

Teng is the son of Teng Yew Huat, who was involved in the opening of the first Giant outlet in Kelana Jaya and the Jaya Grocer stores. Jaya Grocer has six other stores. The first in Jaya33, opened on September 5, 2007, followed by outlets in Mutiara Tropicana, Damansara Perdana, Empire Shopping Gallery, Bukit Jelutong and Sierramas. The Intermark outlet is the first to be located in Kuala Lumpur and is vastly different from the others in terms of design.

“To jive with The Intermark’s status of a high-end product, we decided to create something outstanding,” Teng explains.

The Intermark is a mixed-use development located at the crossroads of Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tun Razak that comprises the Intermark Mall, office blocks Integra Tower and Vista Tower, and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. It is owned by The Intermark Sdn Bhd, an investment holding company.

MGPA (M) Sdn Bhd, the Malaysian entity of MGPA, is the development and asset manager of The Intermark on behalf of the investors of MGPA Asia Fund II. MGPA is an independently managed private equity real estate investment advisory company focused on real estate investments in Asia-Pacific and Europe.

As to why the supermarket operator decided to open at The Intermark, Teng reveals, “We were approached by The Intermark leasing team to open there. My father was familiar with the area and Jaya Grocer has never had an outlet in KL itself. So we thought the time was right for an outlet to be in KL and we also wanted to expand our brand.”

The Intermark director Patrick Liau believes that the supermarket adds value to the development. “We felt that if we had a supermarket to anchor the development, we could make it attractive to people working in and around here but more importantly, we could attract people who are living at Embassy Row to come here and use this facility during the weekends and that is what we are seeing now.”

Wide aisles and fresh produce placed in customised crates provide that market feel

“About four out of 10 customers are expats,” Teng reveals. Thus, the outlet stocks 20% to 30% more imported items compared with Jaya Grocer’s other outlets, he adds. Moreover, the selection of wine is also double that of the other stores.

About 30,000 sq ft in size, Jaya Grocer at The Intermark has been in operation since June. One of its key differences is that it offers both food and beverage (F&B) outlets and groceries. At The Intermark, there are eight F&B outlets offering halal and non-halal fare.

“We feel that by offering not only groceries but also food outlets, it has a stronger ‘pull’ factor for consumers,” says Teng. The only other Jaya Grocer with F&B outlets, albeit on a smaller scale, is the one in the Empire Shopping Gallery in Subang Jaya, which was its first store with this concept.

Moreover, shoppers can buy raw meat, such as steaks or chicken thighs, and then request the in-house restaurant, called Fresco, to cook it to their liking. Teng discloses how his father, on his travels, noticed that overseas supermarkets complement their operations with F&B outlets and decided to bring that concept back to Malaysia.

The supermarket can be easily accessed via The Intermark’s underground car park, which is one of the reasons Jaya Grocer decided to set up there. It also has a designated loading bay which allows it to bring in stocks without affecting the other tenants there.

Jaya Grocer plans to open more supermarkets in Bangi, Cheras and Cyberjaya. Teng reveals he won’t be directly involved in the setting up of these stores.

Youth and passion

Although Jaya Grocer at The Intermark has seen a positive response so far, the spotlight is certainly on Teng, who at 26 is playing a key role in managing this outlet. A graduate from the Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, Teng reveals that he had wanted to be a part of the family business since young.

“The passion for the business started when I was young, when I followed my father to work,” Teng says, adding that he would help stack the shelves after school.

He began working in Jaya Grocer in 2008, a year after he graduated. He started off by cutting and packing vegetables, before progressing to stacking shelves and then dealing with suppliers.

“I had to understand the fundamentals of a supermarket,” Teng explains. “It all begins from the ground up, like how you deal with customers and stack products on the shelves, and you gain knowledge like what are the fastest and slowest selling items, and you can only get all this by being hands on.”

Teng does not deny that it was hard work and what kept him motivated during this tough training period was a sense of duty, being the eldest son in a traditional Chinese family. Additionally, his passion for the business kept him motivated.

Through it all, one lesson he has learnt, especially from his father, is to always be humble and to understand the customers’ point of view in order to give them the ultimate shopping experience.

After many years of seeing their market share taken away by hypermarkets, supermarkets are again in vogue. “The return of the supermarket is possibly due to the traffic congestion in a hypermarket car park that customers face during peak periods,” says Teng. “Also, the walking distance is vast in a hypermarket, so a smaller supermarket is more attractive.”

While this is the case, how does Jaya Grocer ensure that it isn’t a passing trend? By innovating, says Teng.

“I believe if we continue to improve ourselves, the fear that we will be a passing trend will not occur,” he says. “We will keep innovating in the future so that it doesn’t happen.”

Shoppers can buy raw meat, such as steaks or chicken thighs, and then request in-house restaurant Fresco to cook it to their liking

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on November 11, 2013.


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