KUALA LUMPUR – It’s the week before Christmas and everyone seems to be flocking to the malls to squeeze in a bit of last minute gift shopping.
However, while the carparks are full to bursting from morning till night and people are walking about every floor, the cash registers in the retail outlets aren’t really singing this year-end holiday season.
Which begs the question: what are they in the mall for?
“I am not here to buy anything actually. I just brought my family here today because it is a public holiday and for my kids to see the beautiful decorations here,” Ahmad Fitri, 39, told Malay Mail when met at the Mid Valley Megamall, one of the city’s popular shopping centres.
Almost every corner or concourse in this mall has been dressed up for arguably one of the most commercialised holiday event of the year, and people — whether as families, twosomes or solo — could be seen posing for photographs.
A similar scenario was also seen at the Sunway Pyramid and Sunway Velocity Shopping Centres in neighbouring Petaling Jaya.
Practically every retail store and food and beverage outlet were fully decked out in glitter, string lights, wreaths and baubles with beautifully wrapped gift packs or hampers or every shape and size to entice passers-by to step in and buy, buy, buy.
While there were some who made purchases, the bulk of the mall goers were browsers more than buyers. Some who spoke to Malay Mail when approached said they were tightening their belts due to the prolonged challenging economic climate.
Bazaars for cookies, treats and gift packs
Despite the sale signs in large, block letters pasted in some of the window displays of some retail stores, today’s cash-conscious shoppers have become far more savvy about where the real bargains can be found.
The keen-eyed shopper will eschew the eateries and food carts in malls selling sweet treats such as cakes and cookies in attractive gift packages that range from RM250 to as low as RM20.
But even that, some shoppers told Malay Mail, was still costly as they could buy these treats at a bazaar either in a mall, or from someone whom they knew made it from home.
“I think the [gift] packages [at malls and retail outlets] are really attractive but the content inside is quite little,” said S. Theresa when met at Sunway Velocity Shopping Centre.
“For RM20, I can get my friend to bake a set of delicious chocolate cookie, which they are selling here for RM150,” she added.
Another shopper from the same mall who only wanted to be known as Siti said she shopped at bazaars for clothes and sweet treats as well.
“These days, everything is so expensive. I would rather go to any bazaars like the one in Publika or any flea markets like the one in The Curve or Amcorp Mall to buy cheap and nice stuff,” the 35-year-old mother of two said.
The three malls named by Siti in the Klang Valley are noted for holding weekly markets for the enterprising hobbyists.
For other shoppers looking to stretch their ringgit, the best buys these days can be got just a phone tap or a mouse click away.
Virtual malls are cheaper
“At the moment, I don’t need to buy clothes or any necessity. Even if I need to buy anything, I would buy them online as it is cheaper,” Chung Nai Kiap said when met at the Sunway Pyramid shopping centre.
If there was something she wanted, the 25-year-old bank executive said she would usually recce the product at a brick-and-mortar mall before shopping online for a better deal.
“Like recently, I visited a store to check the quality of a headphone that I have been eyeing for and got them online for almost 30 per cent cheaper,” she said.
According to the Internet Users Survey 2017 conducted by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, nearly half of 3,000 respondents, or 48.8 per cent, said they used the internet for online shopping.
Hurdles for brick-and-mortar stores
The Retail Group Malaysia had pointed that the last quarter of 2017 was expected to give the retail industry a boost after recording below par performances in the first half of the year.
Malaysian Retail Chain Association president Datuk Garry Chua was reported saying that the association hoped to see sales for the industry increase between 5 and 7 per cent during the Christmas season.
One of the challenges for the retail industry appears to be the abundance of malls in the country, according to a report which Malay Mail previously sighted.
The report said that some malls in the Klang Valley were located within a 10km radius of each other, causing too stiff competition as shoppers were being spoilt for choice.
As an example, there is the ever-popular Suria KLCC in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, which is located directly across Jalan Ampang from Avenue K. Both malls are also connected to each other through an underpass that is easily accessible by LRT.
In the suburban segment, Atria Mall in Damansara Jaya is located just 5km from The Starling in Damansara Utama, and less than 3km from Tropicana City Mall in SS2 Petaling Jaya. Also in the vicinity is the 1Utama mall, which is now accessible by the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT.