Mall developers trying to dazzle picky shoppers

Updated: 2013-08-06 06:47

By Wang Ying and Xu Junqian in Shanghai (China Daily)

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It takes more than nerve to invest in a shopping mall in Shanghai, at several billion yuan a throw. It also takes more than money.

Too many have opened in the past few years, and most of them give shoppers a case of dj vu, with similar floor plans, fashion and food.

But there's still no shortage of property developers ready to jump on the mall bandwagon, each believing that they have something dazzling or unusual enough to lure increasingly picky shoppers.

Many have failed to unseat long-established malls that are well-known among local shoppers and frequent visitors. But there are some notable exceptions.

K11 Art Mall, a newly renovated mall in New World Tower, owned by Hong Kong New World Development Co Ltd, is one of them.

To attract the lunch-time crowd to its many new third-floor restaurants, the mall built a vegetable garden on the podium under the skylight where several pink piglets roam and oink.

Diners don't actually think that the vegetables in the restaurants come from that garden. But the piglets have created a sensation that helps fill seats in the restaurants, which serve a wide range of cuisines from Japanese to Mediterranean to Hong Kong.

"I cannot say how many diners are attracted by the pigs, as our restaurant was already quite crowded before the pigs showed up in June," said Yang Yan, marketing director of Urban Harvest, which is located near the K11 "farm". But it has added several tables near the vegetable patch to cater for the increase in customer traffic.

There are about 100 malls across Shanghai. Influenced by controls on the residential market, Shanghai's commercial real estate market has been overdeveloped in recent years, and there is an oversupply in the retail market.

Another problem is the large number of look-alike malls, with their repetitive merchandise and layouts.

Many department stores have turned to more frequent, intense sales promotions to overcome customer ennui. Others adjust their tenant mix constantly.

But analysts said that the fundamental solution is for each mall to offer something unique.

Drawn by the buzz

Kang Jiadong, a 35-year-old office worker who was having lunch the other day at Urban Harvest in K11, said he came to the restaurant the first time because "everyone in his social circle was talking about it" and he was intrigued.

But now he frequents the restaurant because "it feels safe to eat what you can see".

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