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Saturday, 31 March 2012

(The Star) State-ly boutique hotel in Langkawi

Nestled in the bustling Pantai Chenang area of Langkawi, a new boutique hotel, Seri Chenang Resort and Spa Langkawi is all set to create an impression once it opens its doors in May.


According to the resort’s chief executive officer Norlin Datuk Zainal Abidin, the boutique resort, which sits on 0.5 hectares of land, is meant to be a home away from home that epitomes Malaysian culture, heritage and warmth.
One of the highlights of the luxury resort is the six traditional Malay heritage villas designed in different sizes and inspired by the architecture of traditional homes from Malaysian states.
Named Rumah Terengganu, Rumah Negri Sembilan, Rumah Melaka, Rumah Selangor, Rumah Kedah and Rumah Pahang, each villa has its own distinct architectural characteristics. The villas range in size from one bedroom to up to five bedrooms, for a total of 13 spacious rooms that mirror the number of states of Malaysia.
Regal: Rumah Terengganu bedroom.
Located on the banks of Kuala Chenang River, next to the popular Chenang beach, the villas are set around a lush royal Malay-inspired garden complete with water features and landscaping.
Intended to be a family holiday home, the resort has the makings of a luxurious getaway with personalised treatment for guests.
“The land belongs to my father who bought it 10 years ago. The initial plan was to build a family holiday home for ourselves but after taking into consideration the cost we thought it would be more feasible to build a resort,” said Norlin.
She added that her brother, Mohammad Shukor who is the product director for the resort, wanted to share the design and architecture of Malaysia with people from around the world.
The project that cost RM5mil began in 2009 with internal funding and Norlin, who has experience in marketing and sales in the retail industry and shopping centre management, was roped in.
Although Langkawi has a number of high-end resorts catering to the upscale market, Norlin and her team are confident that their venture will be successful.
Cooling: The Rumah Selangor indoor pool.
Although the target is to recoup their costs in five years, Norlin is confident they can do it in a shorter time span.
“We have a unique product to offer and we believe we complement all the other luxury hotels on the island and this gives more options for tourists to choose from. There are no other hotels with similar a concept anywhere in the world,” she added.
Langkawi receives 2.8 million tourists a year and the government has come up with a refurbishment plan and funds amounting to RM450mil to give Pantai Chenang a facelift.
Norlin and her team are looking at a 60% occupancy rate for the first few months of operation and are going all out to promote the hotel via tourism exhibitions, travel agents and partnerships.
To ensure they have fulfilled all government requirements, the resort has to have at least five licences for: building a resort on a certain location, fitness, star rating, security and safety from the Fire Department, business, foreign staff, and transportation for resort guests and staff.
Vast: The reception area.
According to Norlin, the hotel has more than just architecture to offer and is proud of their service, which she said is their best asset.
For Norlin, the mother of a two-year-old daughter, family always comes first and she insists that the same treatment be accorded to the guests of the hotel.
“Guests are greeted by the resort manager at the airport simply because the manager is the host of the house (resort),” she said.
To add icing to the cake, the resort has butlers who have been specially trained to cater to the needs of guests.
Guests can actually arrange to have the butlers accompany them on their travels around the island or they can rely on phones provided by the hotel to contact the hotel for directions or assistance.
The resort has a direct access to Chenang Beach via a bridge (titi in Malay) as the resort is separated by a river that runs through the resort. Guests can watch fishermen passing along the river in their traditional boats, going out for their daily catch.
“We also want guests to take the opportunity to enjoy the tax-free alcohol, so we are introducing the ‘buy your own’ (BYO) policy whereby the resort will not sell alcohol in the hotel, but guests can purchase their beverages from the supermarkets outside or our butlers can do that for them,” added Norlin.
According to her, this also helps other businesses in Langkawi.
Eager to provide the best service, Norlin said they will also have post-holiday services to promote return stays. Hotel staff will snap pictures of moments spent at the resort and mail them as postcards after guests check out.
Apart from the resort itself, the Kayangan Spa, featuring traditional Malay massage and therapies, is a must-visit for the most complete experience. The herbs used for the treatments are actually grown on the resort.
The resort will open its doors on May 31 and the official launch will be held on June 30.
For details, go to www.serichenangresort.com, facebook.com/SeriChenang or call the resort’s sales office in Plaza Damas at 03-6201 7275. Their reservation line is 1300 88 SCRL (7275) or e-mail stay@serichenangresort.com

Thursday, 29 March 2012

(The Star) Chicago-born Garrett popcorn making waves in Malaysia

While popcorn is nothing new to us, the arrival of Garrett, a brand of gourmet popcorn from Chicago, sometime late last year has caused a sensation among fans of the sweet snack.


Its outlets in Suria KLCC and 1Utama are only the latest in a line of Garrett’s outlets that have been popping up all over Asia in places like Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, courtesy of Garrett’s Asia master franchise holder Shopping Bag, a company based in Singapore.
According to Shopping Bag (M) Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Linus Kan, one of the key selling points of Garrett’s is the product’s freshness.
“Our popcorn is made fresh daily and it is not kept for longer than an average of four hours. We also advise our customers to consume their popcorn within two hours of purchase to ensure optimum enjoyment,” he said.
Lovely: Garrett Popcorn’s offerings that recently became available in two popular shopping malls in the Klang Valley have been creating a stir, with people queuing up for it every day.
Kan also said that, no matter where in the world you bought Garrett Popcorn, it would taste the same.
“The most important ingredient, that is the corn, is all sourced from the same place by the Garrett Popcorn principal company back in the United States. We also use the same equipment and method of making the popcorn,” he said, adding that the other ingredients that go into the product are also imported except the chilled items such as butter.
Garrett’s tagline “A Chicago Tradition Since 1949” says much about the brand that stands for an old-school style of popping corn.
“The way popcorn is made in Garrett has not changed essentially since it was first made. Until today, the Garrett family recipe has not changed as we still pop the kernels using hot-air rather than oil and it is all done in copper kettles,” Kan said.
He believes that consumers are willing to pay a higher price for the popcorn because of its quality.
Smart packaging: The tins (one or two gallons) available at Garrett Popcorn outlets in Malaysia range from the all-time favourite traditional bluestriped one to the latest addition to commemorate the Year of the Dragon.
The local Garrett outlets are constantly doing brisk business, particularly at its Suria KLCC outlet where 35% of its customers are tourists. There also seems to be a permanent queue outside the outlet during business hours any day of the week.
“In terms of quantity, the ones that come in the bags are selling the most. In December, we made an average of 1,000 transactions in a day,” he said, adding that their bestselling selection is The Chicago Mix, the same as in the United States and that sales have “surpassed expectations”.
So what is The Chicago Mix that everyone is raving over? It is a mixture of Garrett’s sweet CaramelCrisp and savoury CheeseCorn, both of which are also available seperately. There are also the Cashew CaramelCrisp, Almond CaramelCrisp and Macadamia CaramelCrisp selections. The price for a small bag of CaramelCrisp is RM9 while the most expensive choice would be a two-gallon (7.57 litre) barrel of either the nuttier versions of the CaramelCrisp that costs RM29 and comes in a special collectible metal tin with varying designs.
While the profit margin in Malaysia is slightly lower compared with Singapore and Hong Kong due to the duties for the imported ingredients, it is balanced out by the cheaper labour costs and rents here and the business managed to break even after a few months of operation.
So far, both outlets in the Klang Valley are operating beside other brands under Shopping Bag — Candylicious that specialises in chocolates, sweets and gifts and Bruno Gelato in Suria KLCC and Loco Gelato in 1Utama.
“It is not a necessity for us to open all three at any location as it depends on the space and location available within the malls. However, in terms of operating it, it is easier to have all the brands in one place, almost like a one-stop-centre. Rent is also more favourable when we take a bigger space,” Kan said.
While declining to provide more specific numbers, Kan said, to open up a Garrett’s outlet requires a minimum of 500 sq ft of space with proper water and exhaust facilities and an investment that can start from six figures, with equipment making up 20% of the cost.
He said that all the brands that they offer serve a need in the market that is not yet fulfilled.
“Our strategy is basically not to compete in a crowded space where we have to vie for customers. We only want to bring in unique things that are not easily imitated,” he said.
Though they have been receiving requests from Johor to Penang to open up outlets there, Shopping Bag will be focusing on popular shopping centres in the Klang Valley this year where there is a larger number of upper-middle class customers to support the business.
“Back in Singapore, we opened 10 outlets within the first year of business. The ones located along Orchard Road did good business as there were plenty of tourists and locals in the area. We would not do as well in, let’s say, a residential area where our pricing may be a deterrent,” he said.
He added that negotiations are under way to open up more outlets in the Klang Valley where they hope to see another two or three Garrett Popcorn outlets by the end of 2012.
How popular is Garrett Popcorn among customers?
“We decided to open a feedback channel via Facebook and within three months we already had 3,000 fans. We believe that becoming a Garrett customer is an experience and we hope to be able to build a large following in the coming months and years,” he said.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

(The Star) Citta Mall generating lots of attention

Citta Mall, an open-air strip-mall-inspired shopping centre located in Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya, has been generating some buzz among Klang Valley denizens despite not having an official launch.


“The moment it opened on June 25, 2011, Citta (which means ‘mind’ and heart’ in Pali) has been operating as if it is fully occupied,” said centre manager Wong Sue-May.
Advertising and promotions manager Josephine Wong said Citta has already embarked on its tactical campaigns for each season, and has been getting most of its publicity via word of mouth recommendations and blogs.
Managed by Citta Sdn Bhd, Citta is a shopping mall owned by SEB Asset Management, a German real estate fund manager, and property developer Puncakdana Group.
Serving the community: Citta Mall is an open-air strip-mall inspired shopping centre located in Ara Damansara.
“Citta’s layout was adopted from malls in North America, where retail outlets are arranged in a row in an open-air environment,” said Sue-May.
Citta sits on an 8 acre (3.24ha) site, with an estimated gross floor area of 650,000sq ft and nett lettable area of 424,000sq ft respectively.
“Only about half the plot ratio was used, as we had to take into consideration the open air design,” said Sue-May, who described Citta as a suburban community mall with a good mix of stores to service the community and draw in new people.
The horseshoe-shaped Citta Mall covers four-and-a-half floors, including a supermarket on the lower ground level.
It features 130 shops, including Presto supermarket, nine-hall MBO cinema, electrical, computer and bedding retailer Harvey Norman, Macy home furnishing and Unique Seafood restaurant as mini anchors.
Located on lower ground floor: Presto supermarket is one of Citta Mall’s mini anchor tenants.
Its tenant lineup features a mix of the familar and unique, encompassing local and international dining, shopping retailers and services.
New F&B outlets include Chawan, Gourmandis bar lounge, Baci Italian cafe, Wondermilk, non-halal French brasserie Las Delicias, Dr Cafe, Figaro Coffee Company and Kay Riches fusion restaurant.
There are also new retail and service stores like Volt bicycle shop, Jane Yap Atelier arts school, Treasure Box brain development centre, Speak and JJ Trendy Fashion boutiques, A Beauty Secret Studio beauty salon, Home Art Decor, Julia Gabriel & Chiltern House learning centre for children, as well as The Space @ Citta — a 4,200 sq ft permanent exhibition space.
Catering to parents: One of the unique features at Citta Mall is the parents’ room that offers a spacious and comfortable space for parents to attend to their childrenÍs needs. It includes nursing rooms, parent child toilets, diaper changing room and play area.
Sue-May highlighted another unique feature at Citta — a 1,800sq ft parents’ room on the first floor that offers a spacious and comfortable space for parents to attend to their children’s needs as it includes nursing rooms, parent child toilets, diaper changing room and play area.
Other facilities include travelators, glass lifts that can hold up to 24 persons, another 1,200sq ft play area, bicycle parking, easy access ramps and disabled-friendly facilities.
“Citta has 55% confirmed tenants; we are in the process of closing deals for the 45% unoccupied stores,” said Sue-May, who is targeting to have the mall fully occupied by end 2013.
“Depending on the floor and size, the leasing rate averages between RM5 and RM8 per sq ft for a store, RM1,000-RM1,500 for a pushcart, and RM3,500-RM5,500 for a kiosk.”
The mall has 1,200 parking bays — 400 at surface level; 800 at lower ground. Parking rates are slated to be introduced in the third quarter of this year.
In terms of landscaping, Sue-May said it includes Citta’s ‘chief tenants’ — two resident raintrees aged about 75 years old which were rescued from Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.
The mall is accessible via Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang, Jalan Lembah Subang and Jalan PJU 1A/1, which are linked to the NKVE, LDP, Federal and GCE Expressways.
Sue-May said Citta Mall has a gross development value of RM280mil.
“The mall’s target market will be young families and working adults, with the estimated 0.5 million population in Ara Damansara, Glenmarie, Tropicana and Subang Jaya as the primary catchment area,” she said.
“The self-serving concept will make life easier for the shoppers and help families take the load off their daily tasks, as the stores offer a variety of products and services to cater to each person’s needs.”
Citta Mall presently has a weekend bazaar that runs from 11am-8pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Sue-May said the company is not too worried about competition, as Citta’s concept is different, that it would be hard to duplicate its physical layout with generous land space, and because of its niche market targeting the mid- to upper-income group in the community.
“Although a convention centre, hotel and Soho units are scheduled to be constructed next to the mall, we foresee that it won’t pose a huge problem in terms of traffic and accessibility as Ara Damansara is a well-planned area with good infrastructure.
“The LRT Line Extension that will run near Citta will further complement business to the mall,” she said.
Updates and information on Citta Mall are available via www.citta.com.mywww.facebook.com/CITTAMall.AraDamansara or its customer service line at 018-306 2238.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

(The Star) Skyrocketing shophouses

The cost of buying a pre-World War II shophouse in George Town, Penang, has reached RM2,000 per square foot — equivalent to the price of the poshest Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) condominium units.

An entrepreneur, who declined to be identified, has just paid RM4mil for a 2,000sq ft shophouse along Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street) in order to continue an existing business located on the premises which she had been renting.
Before 2008 — the year George Town was jointly listed with Malacca as Unesco World Heritage Sites — pre-war shophouses in Penang were generally going for about RM200,000 to RM800,000 depending on size and location.
In 2009, an unrestored shophouse of 10ft by 36ft in Lorong Chulia only cost RM150,000, but the asking price has since jumped to over RM300,000 of late.
Now, the asking price of even the smallest shophouse that spans only 11ft by 30ft in Lorong Toh Aka is already RM600,000.
Nearby, in Lorong Carnarvon, one unit of 17ft by 100ft has been sold for RM1.2mil, while Lebuh Amernian shophouses can fetch RM3mil each.
Heritage value
Contrary to the popular notion that foreigners and investors from Kuala Lumpur are pushing up prices of Penang heritage property, recent transactions show that Penang investors are the ones who are buying in a substantial way.
This is particularly true among those who have lived abroad and recognise the heritage value.
Stand tall: Bought for RM2mil in 2008, Campbell House in Jalan Campbell is a 10-room hotel owned by Malaysia-born Nadya Wray and her Italian husband, Roberto Dreon.
According to informed sources, one businessman from Bukit Mertajam recently snapped up RM20mil worth of pre-war property, including shophouses, in one day.
Even derelict property is now seeing interest. The defunct Nam Wah Hotel & Bar, located at a prime location in Lebuh Chulia, was sold for RM7mil last year. The property comprises double-shophouse units with a land area of 14,000sq ft.
Such shophouse properties are often turned into “heritage” hotels, charging an average of RM300 to RM400 per room per night.
Local entrepreneur Seah Kok Heng, 42, says he spent RM3mil in 2008 to acquire three derelict, triple-storey shophouses located at Rope Walk or Jalan Pintal Tali.
Then, he spent another RM10mil to restore and transform the adjoining units into the Chinese-themed 1881 Chong Tian Hotel, where certain suites sell for over RM2,000 a night.
Probably the best-known heritage projects are by Penang-born businessman Christopher Ong, who has lived in Australia, as well as in Sri Lanka, where he once operated an award-winning hotel.
Together with business partners, he now owns and operates Muntri Mews, a nine-room hotel, which was formerly a stable on Lebuh Muntri.
Sold: The Nam Wah Hotel property on Lebuh Chulia was sold for RM7mil recently.
This street has some of the finest Straits Eclectic shophouse facades in George Town.
Ong, who is in his late 40s, is currently working on similar projects on Lorong Stewart and Lebuh Noordin, among other sites in George Town.
He also used to own a colonial-era double-storey detached house built located on Jalan Clove Hall.
It was recently sold for close to RM8mil to Penang-born Jim Lim Teik Wah.
Having lived in the UK for 40 years, Lim has returned to settle in George Town together with his English wife, Jo.
Another row of nine shophouses in Jalan Ariffin, just off Jalan Transfer, has been bought by a local lawyer for an undisclosed sum.
The units are being restored for another hotel project by the owner.
The Penaga Hotel project — which occupies Jalan Transfer, Jalan Hutton, and Lebuh Clarke — is another well-known development owned by veteran architect Hijjas Kasturi and his wife Angela, who reportedly spent RM50mil on it.
Obviously, such properties have also been bought by investors from Kuala Lumpur and from overseas.
Old is gold: Located within the heritage zone, the centre shophouse (painted in yellow and white) in Lorong Carnarvon was sold for RM1.2mil while the derelict unit on the left sold for about RM700,000.
Bought for RM2mil in 2008, Campbell House in Jalan Campbell is a 10-room hotel owned by Malaysian-born Nadya Wray and her Italian husband, Roberto Dreon.
Nadya’s mother’s great-granduncle was Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister.
No. 23 Love Lane is another multi-million ringgit restoration project owned and funded by the art-loving wife of a former Cabinet Minister from KL, who declined to be named.
Nibong Tebal
While such buyers are tight-lipped, especially over the total costs of their acquisitions, lumber yard entrepreneur Gooi Kok Wah, 43, has no qualms about revealing the reasons for acquiring such properties.
The Nibong Tebal-based businessman has been eyeing and buying such shophouses since 2008, after the Unesco World Heritage Site listing.
Apparently, that declaration fuelled the interest of astute locals as well as “outsiders” including Swiss, French, Australian and Singaporean investors.
“Current prices for such properties in prime areas like Beach Street can command RM2,000 per square foot, and RM1,000 per square foot and above, for touristy areas such as Chulia Street, Love Lane, Muntri Street, Stewart Lane and certain heritage core zone sections.
Good buy: In the middle of 2011, Gooi paid about RM2mil for his double-storey shophouse at Lebuh Kimberley.
“And even in less known areas like Prangin Lane, the asking price is at least RM400 per square foot,” explains Gooi, a former accountant.
To-date, Gooi has bought six pre-war shophouse properties.
His latest RM2mil purchase was for a two-storey shophouse at Lebuh Kimberley that spans 20ft by 200ft, with a built-up space of 6,000sq ft.
Heritage zone
He points out that George Town World Heritage Incorporated — an organisation under the State Government — listed only 3,800 units of pre-war shophouses in the heritage core and buffer zones on the island.
The core zone covers an irregular-shaped area of 109 hectares on the north-east section of the island city.
It is bounded by the sea on side and cocooned by the heritage buffer zone on the other side. The buffer zone covers 150 hectares.
The core zone is roughly hemmed by Pengkalan Weld, Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, Lebuh Light, Lebuh Farquhar, Lorong Love, Lebuh Carnarvon, Lorong Carnarvon, Lebuh Melayu and Gat Lebuh Melayu.
And the buffer zone extends to part of the sea in front of Weld Quay and bounded by Jalan Prangin and Jalan Transfer. (Refer to www.penang-traveltips.com/george-town-unesco-world-heritage-site.htm)
“Such heritage property is in a classic supply-and-demand situation. The supply side is limited and cannot be increased in tandem with the increase in demand,” says Gooi.
“Furthermore, supply can and will be reduced, due to accidents like fire and vehicle mishaps.
“There are also cases of misguided re-development, with insensitive modifications or illegal alterations destroying the heritage value of such property, as well as neglect and natural deterioration.
“However, demand is always increasing due to business opportunities with the increasing number of tourist arrivals as a result of more low-cost flights from other countries.
“Also, the rising interest of heritage buffs from outside Penang who desire to own such a property will further fuel demand.”
City residence
Born in Nibong Tebal, Gooi has lived and worked in London, Glasgow and Jakarta as well as Kuala Lumpur, Klang and George Town, before deciding to relocate back to his hometown.
With his latest shophouse, the entrepreneur intends to restore the Kimberley Street property for his city residence.
As to the costs involved in restoring such shophouses, Gooi says there is “no limit on the expenditure for heritage-building restoration” .
“It depends on how fine you desire the quality to be,” says the father of three, “However, for ordinary or minimal-cost restoration work, it would cost about RM300,000 for a shophouse unit of 1,400sq ft.”
Asked if it would be wiser to invest the total costs of buying and restoring a shophouse in a newly developed landed property or condominium unit, Gooi says, “No, I would say, heritage houses can command a much higher rate of return compared to other types of property.”
High Court Case
One factor that contributed to the current high prices for pre-war shophouses in George Town can be traced to an incident at the High Court in Penang on Sept 29, 2010.
On that day, a property auction by CIMB Bank attracted an unusually large crowd of over 70 people. The highlight of the sale was an unrestored shophouse of 20ft by 125ft located on Armenian Street.
There were only five actual bidders including Gooi.
The reserve price was RM450,000 and furious bidding pushed the price up to an astonishing RM1.1mil, setting a new benchmark in Penang.
The eventual buyer was a veteran real estate consultant.
And that property is now reputed to be worth at least RM2.6mil, as it is, without any restoration.
Observes Gooi, “Penang heritage houses and their strategic location are a unique combination.
The value of pre-war shophouses still hasn’t been fully realised.
“One thing for sure, prices will continue to go up,” predicts Gooi, who is still on the prowl for such “heritage” property.
Think City
There have been efforts by the local authorities and Federal Government-backed bodies like Think City, a special-purpose vehicle established by Khazanah Nasional Bhd, to help enhance the heritage value of these old buildings.
These organisations aim to engage stakeholders to improve the environment by maintaining the right architectural features as well as improve cleanliness and the drainage system, encourage more greenery, build pedestrian walkways and offer tourism attractions.
No fun living in a shophouse
WHILE new buyers of Penang’s pre-war shophouses wax lyrical over the romantic notion of restoring and staying in a “heritage” home, those who grew up in such houses, don’t fancy living in one again.
Tune Hotels strategic developments director Anwar Jumabhoy, from the well-known Indian Muslim Jumabhoy family in Penang, recalls less than romantic memories of living in an old shophouse.
“Yes, I do remember living in Jalan Greenhall, Penang, just off Lebuh Light,” says Anwar, who is in his 50s.
He is bemused that new buyers are willing to pay so much money to restore such shophouses and even want to live in them.
“In those days, we were one of the few houses with a toilet inside and I used to watch in amazement at the ‘night soil’ trucks that used to come in the morning, and kids — without toilets — had to do their ‘business’ in the street.
“My parents’ office was downstairs and we lived upstairs and learnt how to be well-behaved children — you had to, as the floor was wooden, so too much running around meant a lot of noise for those in the office.”
To the jetsetting corporate executive, a terraced house in those days meant, no windows except for the master bedroom.
And the courtyard or air well was where the toilets and kitchen were located — at the back of the house.
For a young child, going to the toilet at night was a scary experience especially through dimly-lit and long corridors.
“Now, would I consider living there again? Not really, wooden floors, rickety stairs and a very, ‘nice’ attic,” says Anwar.
“With options available today for modern comfort, the nostalgic experience might be nice for a couple of days, no more.
“For a more permanent home or hotel accommodation, I would much rather have a room with lots of windows and a view.”
A Chinese owner of a new double-storey, linked-house in the upscale neighbourhood of Seri Tanjung Pinang, who declines to be named, says she doesn’t ever want to go back living in an old shophouse.
She grew up on Lebuh Kimberley.
“Why would I ever want to live in such a home again? There’s not much privacy especially when you have a big family,” says the mother of a teenage girl.
While there are those who don’t have fond memories of living in rickety, old shophouses, a new generation of owners can’t wait to occupy their expensively restored heritage properties. — By Johnni Wong

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

(Business Times) Parkson eyes 18 new stores in Malaysia by 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Parkson Retail Asia Ltd (PRA), which operates department stores in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, expects to open as many as 18 new Parkson stores in Malaysia by 2020, in addition to the 37 stores currently.

The additional stores would provide the retailer an additional 2.16 million sq ft of retail space from a total of 4.2 million sq ft now. 

This expansion is in line with PRA's target of opening at least two stores each year as well as its parent Parkson Holdings Bhd's (PHB) plan to own and manage 10 shopping complexes by 2020.

PHB recently announced a RM3 billion investment to develop its shopping management business. It targets to open 10 shopping centres under the Festival City brand. 

PRA's executive director Toh Peng Koon said two Parkson department stores were slated to open this year - in Setia City Mall, Shah Alam, in May and in Nu Sentral, Kuala Lumpur, in the final quarter of this year. 

"Besides these two, we have three more confirmed sites that will open over the next two years," Toh said.

Those outlets will be located in Plaza Merdeka in Kuching, KK Times Square in Kota Kinabalu and B8 Mall in Skudai, Johor.

On average, each store has a leasing area of between 120,000 sq ft and 150,000 sq ft. 

"Our fit-out and renovation cost in each (leased) department store is usually RM6 million. The concessionaires will spend for their fit-out," Toh said.

Of its 37 outlets, Parkson's best performing store in terms of per sq ft is Parkson KLCC while the Parkson Pavilion derives the highest total sales. Its best performing suburban mall is its store at 1 Utama shopping centre.

Meanwhile, when asked about its performance in Malaysia, Toh said he expected Parkson to outperform the industry retail growth forecast.

The Malaysia Retailer Association (MRA) has made a 6.5 per cent growth forecast in 2012. 

"We have witnessed this trend (surpassing MRA's projection) at Parkson for the past few years. We are seeing a 12 per cent same store growth," he said.

"Our profits are seeing even better growth because of our economies of scale. Every one per cent growth in the topline gives us a more than one per cent growth in the bottomline," Toh pointed out.

In the first half ended December 31, 2011, revenue from its retailing business rose to RM435.67 million from RM389.65 million the previous corresponding period.

Profit in the same period rose 41.16 per cent to RM77.14 million from RM54.64 million in first six months ended December 31, 2010.

Source: http://www.btimes.com.my/articles/iparkdep-2/Article/#ixzz1rVyvXJgD

Saturday, 10 March 2012

(Business Times) Parkson plans RM3b chain of shopping malls in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Parkson Holdings Bhd, a Lion group company, will invest some RM3 billion to develop a chain of 10 shopping complexes by 2020.

The development and management of the mall, which will be under Festival City Sdn Bhd, will open in major cities within the country and carry the Festival City brandname.

Group managing director Datuk Alfred Cheng this is a natural extension of its enormous retail experience and to create a new and steady source of income.

“Parkson is in its 25th year of operations and has a lot of retail experience. In some of our overseas operations where we occupy a larger area, we are already operating a ‘pseudo’ shopping malls. 

So, we already have experience running malls and this is a natural extension,” he said.

Cheng explained that it used the word “pseudo” as it already has seven malls in China where Parkson is the main occupant with smaller retailers.

“The focus (previously) was to build a network of Parkson (department store). Now that we have achieved more than 105 stores in Asia, we feel ready to also venture into shopping complexes,” he said.

“Within the next three years, we expect to have two more malls and, within 10 years, 10 malls in total in Malaysia,” he said.

In a recent interview, it was reported that Parkson was finalising a second mall that will be located in Malacca.

“Each mall will cost between RM250 million and RM300 million on the average or maybe even a little more,” Cheng told Business Times following the official launch of the first mall.

“We will only be in major cities for a start,” he added.

Cheng also did not discount the fact that it could buy an existing mall but said that it would focus on developing its own mall.

Parkson Holdings is the majority shareholder in both Hong Kong-listed Parkson Retail Group Ltd and Singapore-listed Parkson Retail Asia.

The former listed entity covers the retail operations in China, while the latter covers operations in Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. 

Meanwhile, Cheng said KL Festival City will post a earnings before tax and interest of RM20 million in the first year of operations. The mall's tenants are expected to rake in a total of RM300 million in sales in during the same period. 

KL Festival City, whose theme is "Every Day is a Celebration", is a 1.1 million-sq-ft mall with a total net lettable area of 500,000 sq ft. 

Shares of Parkson Holdings yesterday rose 3 sen to close at RM5.56. The stock's price has fallen by 1.77 per cent so far this year, compared with the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Composite Index's 3.15 per cent rise.

Source: http://www.btimes.com.my/articles/iparkmal2/Article/#ixzz1rVy63EEB