‘Malls will survive onslaught of e-retail’

mallPETALING JAYA: The Malaysia Shopping Malls Association has rejected an economist’s opinion that brick-and-mortar shopping centres may be facing irrelevance, saying they will adapt to competition from online retailers and survive.

The association’s adviser, Chan Hoi Choy, said malls could capitalise on their ability to offer opportunities for socialisation and engagement of the five senses. “A trip to the mall with take on a different dimension and meaning in years to come,” he said.

In fact, he added, this was already happening. He pointed to the growing presence of the food and beverage (F&B) industry in shopping malls.

F&B outlets now occupy 25% to 30% of a typical mall’s spaces for rent. Twenty years ago, they took up less than 10% of those areas.

Chan also said businesses offering leisure and entertainment such as films, karaoke singing and health massage would remain relevant.

“It is a question of what you do with the space, how you make it experiential,” he said. “To face the onslaught of online retailers, malls need to ask themselves what are the trade categories that can conjure up experience and socialisation, among other pertinent questions.”

Recently, economist Hoo Ke Ping said Alibaba’s logistics hub, which will be operational in 2019, will encourage the growth of online shopping at the expense of shopping malls in Malaysia.

“Yes, technology disrupts,” Chan said, “but it can be equally enabling. The advance in technology has also enabled malls to deliver and customise experiences like never before. Virtual reality, radio frequency identification, 3D printing have enabled brands to offer unique experiences.”

He noted the decision by two e-commerce companies – Amazon and Alibaba – to set up brick-and-mortar operations and said he saw the development as the beginning of a convergence of online and offline retailing.