Small Town Malls Faring Better

Shoppers throng Kluang Mall during the opening of the H&M outlet late last year
Similarly, Summer Mall, which opened in 2013 and developed by Tetap Majumas Sdn Bhd, is the first sizable shopping mall in Kota Samarahan.

The three-storey landmark, with a built-up of about 800,000 sq ft, is within a township comprising a population of over 300,000 people. The area also houses two of the state's varsities, namely Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).

"With an 'Everything Under One Root' concept, the mall is an integrated development comprising over 335 retail lots with a wide range of trade mix," says a Summer Mall source.

The mall, about 20km from Kuching, has all the shopping and amenities that shoppers and visitors are after without having to travel to Kuching, she says.

"Our trade mix includes fashion and lifestyle retails, F&B, entertainment and the Servay Hypermarket and Parkwell Departmental store as anchor tenants. We also have the LFS [Lotus Five Star] cinemas which is one of the draws of the mall,"she adds.

Looking ahead, she says the adjacent Summer Lagoon Water Theme Park is on schedule to be opened later this year. "And for future development, the hotel and serviced apartment block will complete the beautiful picture of the whole building," the source says.

It is encouraging that these two surburban malls are doing well despite consumer sentiments in the country remaining weak.

The MIER (Malaysian Institute of Economic Research) Consumer Sentiments Index plummeted since the third quarter of 2014 to 71.5, the lowest since 2009. "The uncertainty in both the global and local economic environment has shaded a pessimistic outlook on household spending in the short term," according to the 2016 Property Market Report by CH Williams Talhar and Wong (WTW).

"The languishing economy may recover slowly in the short run. However, constant growing demand of consumers for modern and sophisticated retail malls has kept the growth of retail sales consistent.

"Malaysia Retailers Association [NRA] reported retail sales growth in the first quarter of 2015 of 11.41%, which has improved gradually since the third quarter of 2014. However, retail sales growth was down to 7.17% in the second quarter of 2015, due to the goods and services tax [GST] implementation in April, 2015," says the report.

Part of Kluang Mall's and Summer Mall's good performance is that both towns have a young and growing population.

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