Malls roll out red carpet for mainlanders

HONG KONG: Hong Kong retailers are rolling out their red carpets, along with free bus rides, wine, theme park tickets — and even "pudding tours" — to lure mainland shoppers into their malls before and during the Lunar New Year.

"They [mainlanders] like those promotional offers and are attracted by them," director of Times Square, Leng Yen-thean, said, adding that the growing number of mainlanders visiting the mall had boosted its full-year sales revenue to a record high of HK$7.4 billion (RM2.9 billion) last year.

Shoppers who spent at least HK$5,000 at the Causeway Bay complex, owned by Wharf (Holdings), between next Wednesday and Sunday, would be given two tickets to Ocean Park, a destination that is popular with mainland visitors, and Leng expected retail sales and traffic volume at the mall to be up 15% and 10% respectively compared to the same period last year.

Hollywood Plaza, located away from the tourist destinations of Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay, would spend some HK$900,000 on promotions targeting mainland consumers during the Lunar New Year festival.

The promotions planned for the mall, in Diamond Hill, included an offer of free coach transport and lunch for about 450 mainlanders travelling from Guangzhou.

"We will offer them a free trip and lunch at the mall, where they will also get some welcome gifts including discount coupons and cash vouchers from our tenants," said the mall's promotions and advertising manager, Candy Lo Hang-yee.

China shoppers would also be given additional gifts based on their actual spending at the arcade, and Lo said shoppers who spent HK$500 would get a bottle of red wine, while those who spent HK$2,000 could choose either a digital camera or mobile phone as a reward.

Lo said such promotions had proved effective in the past and mainlanders contributed about HK$170 million, or 7%, of the mall's total sales revenue last year. She expected the contribution to increase to around HK$300 million this year because of the high inflation rate on the mainland and the appreciation of the yuan.

Sun Hung Kai Properties, a pioneer of free group tours to bring mainland visitors to its malls, has launched several "theme tours" to attract visitors this year.

"For example, we have the pudding tour which will bring visitors here to learn how to make Lunar New Year puddings in Hong Kong," said Maureen Fung Sau-yim, general manager of Sun Hung Kai's leasing department.

"We will also organise some luxury new year goods tours for shoppers who are keen to buy dried seafood, abalone, bird's nest and health products."

To boost sales, the developer even gives the tour group participants a pre-order form with items offered by its tenants before their trip, so that they can make orders in case they do not have sufficient time to visit all shops in the arcade. Since all malls in Hong Kong would be engaged in a competitive battle to attract mainland visitors, such promotions were important because many mainlanders had been to Hong Kong before and would be looking for a novel experience, Fung said.

Of the HK$13.5 million investment by Sun Hung Kai on Lunar New Year promotions at its 11 malls, up to 40% targeted the mainland market, she said. That included organising 40 group tours bringing up to 2,000 people to its malls which was expected to boost its sales by HK$15 million.

However, some shopping mall operators believe having the right mix of tenants is more important in wooing shoppers from the north.

"They will come to your mall if you have the right strategies and tenant model which fits their preference and lifestyle. This is more important," said MTR Corporation's general manager of investment property Betty Leong Sin-ling, who manages Elements at West Kowloon.

"They now come all year round, including the periods when luxury brands offer private sales," she said. "They are looking for some special and unique items too."

Therefore, apart from investing more than HK$20 million on Lunar New Year decorations and treats such as free cash coupons, beauty products and hampers for tourist who spend from HK$2,000 to more than HK$33,888, the mall is bringing in luxury brands to build a watch and jewellery display area to appeal to affluent mainland visitors.

On average, mainland shoppers spend between HK$15,000 and HK$20,000 per person at the mall, she said, and more than half of that amount was spent on watches and jewellery.

Leong expected that traffic and sales revenues at the mall would achieve record double-digit growth during the Lunar New Year, compared to the same period last year. — SCMP
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