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Downturn forces malls to reposition image and brand

AN increasing number of shopping malls are turning to professional consultants to reposition or upgrade their branding because a downturn in the global economy has left landlords facing growing pressure to attract tenants.

"We have noticed a key trend that more property owners are seeking advice from professional retail consultants in a major effort to stay competitive," said Raymond Wei, director of retail for local operations at DTZ, a real estate services provider. "That will definitely enhance the local retail scene and help cultivate a more mature retail environment."

One of the latest examples is the Infiniti Plaza on Huaihai Road. The shopping mall, with a retail space of around 40,000 square meters, has appointed TCBL Consulting Ltd as its mall operator and sole leasing agent this month.

"Through interior refurbishing and readjustment of its tenant mix, we hope to further consolidate Infiniti's image as a major shopping destination for fashion savvy white collar workers," said Thomas Tam, joint managing director at TCBL, which is also responsible for the redevelopment works at nearby Hong Kong Plaza and Lippo Plaza. "We hope to bring trendy shopping experiences, particularly catering to the needs of middle-end customers."

TCBL, which is a consultant for approximately 3 million square meters of retail properties in six cities across the country, said it plans to introduce more mid to high-end international brands as well as food and beverage stores to Hong Kong Plaza while Lippo Plaza will have a brand-new positioning specifically targeting top-end retailers.

Some landlords have been forced to make this move to reposition or upgrade their malls' image because of the global recession which has forced some of their retail tenants to review their expansion plans amid uncertainties in the domestic economy.

A research released yesterday by DTZ showed that rents in the city's five core retail hubs, including Nanjing Road, Huaihai Road, Xujiahui, Yuyuan Garden and Lujiazui, fell to 48.3 yuan (US$7) per square meter per day by the end of March, a sharp drop of 8.7 percent quarter on quarter, while they fell 3.8 percent year on year.


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