Mall Wars: Starling Versus Damansara City

[Marketing]

My post about the state of shopping malls in Malaysia earlier this year (which you can read here – https://timchew.net/2016/08/09/challenges-facing-the-retail-industry-in-malaysia/) ruffled quite a few feathers in the industry particularly the malls with low occupancy which didn’t quite like the fact that I highlighted them.

Now it wasn’t my intention to belittle or give a negative impression of any mall. After all, a strong local economy is crucial for my business and the retail sector and malls play an important role in it. I’m merely highlighting the facts and the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research has data to back up what I’m saying.

Truth is that this period of economic uncertainty and heavy competition from online retail platforms was always going to be very challenging for the brick and mortar retail sector. Some brands have successfully developed their own online e-commerce platform which enables consumers to buy directly from their website, however many brands are still very traditional minded and rely heavily on consumer traffic in shopping malls. A lot of brands still mainly use traditional media as a platform to reach consumers although I have noticed that more and more brands are using digital platforms which simply makes more sense as digital media is more cost-effective.

The danger of course is that brands who don’t really have a clue about how to advertise on digital platforms are throwing money to the wind by utilising the wrong platforms for their product/ service. Example, if a brand is launching a new product or service, they’ll probably need to use bloggers instead of Instagrammers as their new product/ service would require more explanation and short to medium term publicity.

On the flipside, Instagram, Facebook and to a certain degree YouTube are great platforms for established brands to advertise their products or services especially for known products. I’ve noticed brands such as KFC, McDonalds, Coca Cola and many more FMCG brands are placing ads on the aforementioned platforms to achieve top of mind brand recall or to highlight a tactical campaign such as new burger or product.

Anyway back to the topic at hand. Somehow I was at the two new malls in a span of just two (2) days and looking at the rows and rows of empty shoplots I decided to write this little feature.

 

Damansara City Mall (DC Mall)

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Getting into the Damansara City Mall (DC Mall) parking was a challenge in itself. Obviously more importance was given to aesthetics than functionality when it came to signboards. The parking entrance/ exit is rather dangerous as the paths of entering and exiting cars will cross. Simply swapping the entry/ exit lanes should solve this problem though but I’m guessing that it’ll take a few accidents to happen first before they actually consider it. Anyway just be extra careful when entering/ exiting the car park.

The mall’s layout somehow tries to cover up all entrances to the lift lobbies with doors while the corridors to the lift lobbies are surprisingly narrow. Perhaps this was to maximise retail space however I don’t think it’s too wise to skimp on public spaces like corridors. There’s really not many tenants in the mall. Only go if you’re looking to dine at Soleil or Erawan or a handful of other F&B outlets. 

Finding an autopay machine to pay your parking ticket is somewhat of a treasure hunt. Hint – there’s one near the entry/ exit ramp. I couldn’t find any other machines. Guess it’s still early days for DC Mall and if they can get their tenant mix right, I’m sure they can attract a crowd and challenge the likes of Bangsar Shopping Centre and Bangsar Village which are a couple of minutes drive away. 

 

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The mall is pretty clean and that’s probably due to the lack of any lots doing fit out

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On every floor, row after row of empty lots

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Modern and stylish interior

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Starling Mall

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Starling Mall did have more shops open when I visited it however the repugnant smell of paint, thinner and dust made my visit a very short one. In fact, all I did was to visit every floor (the upper floors are closed and not accessible), snap some photos and leave. That was how bad it was. There are about a dozen or more shops doing fit out, some in the latter stages and I suspect trying to open in time for Christmas, however the majority of lots are still empty.

DC Mall is aggressively running advertisements on Facebook and Instagram however with the current state of the mall, I wouldn’t recommend that you visit it until most of the tenants finish their fit out. At least their parking signages are pretty clear and there are multiple autopay machines around with signages pointing to them which is a plus point.

However they still have much to do if they are to challenge the likes of 1 Utama Shopping Centre, The Curve, Ikano, Tropicana City Mall and Atria Shopping Gallery, all of which are barely 5 minutes drive away.

 

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The upper floors were closed off to public

The upper floors were closed off to public

I think this is quite dangerous

I think this is quite dangerous

Tenants in the final stages of fit out

Tenants in the final stages of fit out

Very dusty floors even though the cleaners were trying their best to clean it but the constant amount of dust makes it an impossible task

Very dusty floors even though the cleaners were trying their best to clean it but the constant amount of dust makes it an impossible task

In the lift lobby, only one (1) lift was working causing long waiting times. In the end, I decided to walk up the stairs.

In the lift lobby, only one (1) lift was working causing long waiting times. In the end, I decided to walk up the stairs.

Clear signages to the autopay machines

Clear signages to the autopay machines

Generally pretty clear signages leading to and inside the car park

Generally pretty clear signages leading to and inside the car park

The outside of the mall facing the shoplots across the road

The outside of the mall facing the shoplots across the road

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Nice greenery outside however the presence of constructions workers taking a nap under the tress were somewhat of a turnoff

 

Update – 29 June 2017

The Starling has improved tremendously over the past few months with many new tenants opening. I am quite happy to see tenants such as Jaya Grocer and Hank’s Fine Foods, Nicsmann restaurant and bar, Go Noodle House and MBO cinema. This mall has somehow managed to defy the glut of retail space in Kuala Lumpur and managed to thrive! Pretty impressive!

 

The fact is that the current economic and market climate is very challenging for the retail industry. Even malls which have been around for a couple of years are not spared. A walk around The Curve in Mutiara Damansara unearthed some empty lots on the top floor although the ground floor was buzzing with shoppers.

 

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With the economy still facing uncertainty entering 2017, it’s probably going to be a rough ride in next year for retail brands and shopping malls. Sadly, not all will thrive and weather the storm successfully as they’ll have to contend with a shrinking consumer spending and competition from online platforms. Malls and retail brands will have to find cost-effective ways to reach and engage consumers, and ultimately drive traffic to their malls/ outlets.

Hopefully, things will change for the better in 2017 and perhaps in 12 months time, I’ll write a feature about how well DC Mall and Starling Mall are doing. Of course, it takes action to make change happen so Malaysians, don’t just wish for change yet sit around and do nothing. Take positive action and witness the positive change. If you do nothing, don’t expect anything to change. The future is in your hands…

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