Kuala Lumpur's Changing Face of Retail and Leisure in an IORMA World
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Kuala Lumpur's Changing Face of Retail and Leisure in an IORMA World

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This article was written for the Global Consultancy IORMA (www.iorma.com) and reflects on the changing patterns of retail and leisure in Kuala Lumpur. ...

This article was written for the Global Consultancy IORMA (www.iorma.com) and reflects on the changing patterns of retail and leisure in Kuala Lumpur.
Along with Paris, Vancouver and London, Kuala Lumpur is one of my favourite cities. Each of these cities has its own character and even if I were dropped blindfolded into the centre of any one of them, there could be no mistaking where you are. My current stay in Kuala Lumpur is the longest continuous time I have ever been outside the UK. I’ve taken the opportunity in my daily routine to try to capture the essence of retail and leisure activities in KL city centre and make a subjective assessment for IORMA on how it compares to the UK and elsewhere.

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Kuala Lumpur's Changing Face of Retail and Leisure in an IORMA World Kuala Lumpur's Changing Face of Retail and Leisure in an IORMA World Document Transcript

  • Kuala Lumpur’s Changing Face of Retail and Leisure in an IORMA World See https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidwortley/sets/72157644509785385/ for full Image Set Introduction and Background Along with Paris, Vancouver and London, Kuala Lumpur is one of my favourite cities. Each of these cities has its own character and even if I were dropped blindfolded into the centre of any one of them, there could be no mistaking where you are. My current stay in Kuala Lumpur is the longest continuous time I have ever been outside the UK. I’ve taken the opportunity in my daily routine to try to capture the essence of retail and leisure activities in KL city centre and make a subjective assessment for IORMA on how it compares to the UK and elsewhere. The above map and link to photos shows my main areas of interest which is by no means comprehensive but gives a snapshot of what is now and what is likely to be. The first thing to hit me when I got here this time after being a fairly regular short term visitor over the last 10 years is the level of construction activities going on at this time. Apart from the skyline dominated by cranes that seems to be a feature of many Asian cities I have visited, KL is engaged in a rapid underground transit project similar to the London Crossrail. The whole city centre seems like a construction site with the whole of the main retail areas affected by roadworks.
  • KL under construction For my stay here, I used the airbnb web site for the first time and am staying in an apartment in a 20 storey condominium with 24 hour security and a rooftop swimming pool and gym very near to Bukit Bintang and the Golden Triangle. If my experience is typical of airbnb, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Street life on Jalan Bukit Bintang
  • My daily life takes me along Jalan Bukit Bitang past all the old shops and street sellers that are symptomatic of the entrepreneurial culture and street market practices offering all manner of goods and services not available on any UK High Street I know of. BB Plaza and Sungei Wang Plaza Walking along Jalan Bukit Bintang you come to the old established BB Plaza which merges with Sungei Wang Plaza and is typical of historical retail practices based mainly on micro enterprises with small units that give the feel of an indoor market on multiple levels but with one major department store (Parkson) and several familiar names in Asia such as the Guardian and Watsons pharmacy chains. Flourishing Mobile Technology Enterprises
  • The most common type of unit sells mobile phones and other consumer technologies with very keen prices. I was able to buy a fully functional dual sim android smartphone with 2 cameras for under £40 and my “pay as you go” call and text charges are minimal compared to the UK. Low Yat – Malaysia’s Largest IT Mall Just a few metres from BB Plaza is the vibrant Low Yat IT Mall with several floors filled with small units selling mobiles, laptops and every manner of digital device along with repair services and like Jalan Bukit Bintang, you run a gauntlet of sales staff desperate to attract your attention. Berjaya Times Square Mall
  • Close to Low Yat is Berjaya Times Square, the biggest traditional mall in KL which also includes two large blocks of offices and a hotel. What differentiates Berjaya Times Square from the other two malls is the inclusion of substantive leisure facilities which includes the only indoor theme park complete with massive roller coaster and a multi screen cinema. Despite these extensive facilities, the main retail attractor in Kuala Lumpur seems to be food outlets which take usual form of massive food courts or collections of familiar global names like Starbucks, Macdonalds etc. The Berjaya Times Square Roller Coaster
  • Selection of Food Courts in Kl City Centre Retail Outlets Most malls seem to operate from 10 am to 10 pm seven days a week and even on a Sunday evening at 9pm, the malls are buzzing. Lot 10 Mall Bukit Bintang Across the street and Bukit Bintang Monorail station is the Lot 10 Mall which perhaps gives the first clue to the changing face of retail and leisure in Kuala Lumpur. In this mall you will find the ubiquitous multi-floor Department store – in this case iSetan alongside more familiar High Street brands such as H&M. Here you will find very few small “market units” that characterise BB Plaza, Low Yat, Sungei Wang and Berjaya Times Square.
  • Parksons and iSetan Department Stores The Parkson and iSetan department stores that form the backbone or foundation of most of the malls (Parksons seems to be the dominant player) seem to reflect the age of the malls in that the stores in the older malls look very dated with heavy discounting and unimaginative merchandising whilst the newer malls can match John Lewis and other leading modern department stores. The Modern Pavilion Mall The first real indication of the direction of retail and leisure in Kuala Lumpur is found in the very modern Pavilion Mall which along with Suria KLCC under the Petronas Towers is stacked full with leading global brands and a total absence of the small micro enterprises. In the Pavilion there is an excellent choice of restaurants to cater for every taste from the massive basement Food Republic to
  • al fresco dining outside the Pavilion along the new “City Walk”, a covered walkway that can take you from Bukit Bintang to Suria KLCC. Suria KLCC Mall under the Famous Petronas Twin Towers All the malls in KL seem to incorporate a central atrium feature that gives a glimpse of the scale of the shopping experience. Berjaya Times Square Atrium
  • Nu Sentral – the latest development with KL Sentral Station Complex Away from KL City Centre, the latest retail development is called Nu Sentral which is about to open in the heart of the city’s commuter transport system at KL Sentral station. Nu Sentral will be dominated by global brand names but within the KL Sentral station complex and also the central bus station Pudu Sentral, the small units remain selling snacks, mobile phone services and novelty goods. KL Sentral Railway Station and Pudu Sentral Bus Station
  • Little India Retail Scene Away from the buzz and aspirational lifestyle of the latest malls there are run down areas that seem similar to me to the ones you find in India and Thailand with many tiny units selling everything under the sun within the same unit. My impression is that there is likely to be a growing gulf between the latest modern developments and the old world which tends to cater for the poorer elements in the community. Street beggars are common everywhere in KL. Leisure Facilities in KL Selection of Entertainment Attractions Linked to Retail
  • Food and Leisure play a big role in bringing consumers into the city and food seems to be the biggest attraction that brings in families into the large malls. Jalan Alor Street Food In the Bukit Bintang area is a very vibrant street scene with a very busy outdoor street food scene in Jalan Alor which is a “must see” at night. Changkat Bars and Restaurants
  • The Changkat area is just a stone’s throw from Jalan Alor and is one of the most popular tourist haunts for its fantastic selection of bars/restaurants all with large screens showing the latest sports programmes. Jalan P Ramlee Bars and Restaurants The other tourist nightlife area is Jalan P Ramlee which is not far from the Petronas Towers and the Golden Triangle. Here there is the best live entertainment in KL but the drinks prices are much higher than the UK, especially after 9pm. Kuala Lumpur Tun Abdul Razak Heritage Park
  • Very close to the city centre is a beautiful park with many attractions and a great place to get some fresh air and clear the mind of the city fumes and traffic. I visit the park most days now but it seems empty during the week. Conclusions This is just a snapshot of my experiences over the last 6 weeks spent in KL. It remains one of my favourite cities and may well become a second home if I can set up a base here. Its retail scene is undergoing a transformation which seems to be focused on very aspirational lifestyles and the new developments are targeting those with money. Aspirational Marketing The new retail developments are very lively and buzzing but the older “market stall unit” malls also have a place and it would be a great shame if all the investment in global brand based new developments marginalised the smaller entrepreneurial traders whose base seems now to be in question. David Wortley GAITSS May 2014