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Finesse in mall differentiation crucial
Published on: Monday, January 05, 2015

KOTA KINABALU: Finesse in innovation has always been the modern catalyst behind entrepreneurial success stories as shopping malls all over the region seek to differentiate their attractions, unique offerings for visitors' shopping experience, so as to draw repeat patronage aside from tourists for the success of their tenants business mix in an age of cheap air travel.

Sabahans are known to fly to Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Bangkok and Surabaya onwards to Jakarta for affordable shopping, while the rich move to more expensive cities.

A unique success story is that of AmCorp Mall in Selangor with its antique collectable market every weekend which is to be adopted by the Oceanus Mall here.

There was a period in the past when the AmCorp Mall was not popular with the shopping crowds, but the management worked hard to differentiate to revive its attractiveness. Now the crowds are back despite the reality that more newer malls are opening in the Klang Valley.

Its antique collectable market concept has even spread in popularity to other states and now in Melaka, a similar copied market is blooming.

Malls from Bangkok to Manila with Malaysia and Singapore in between need to stand out and impose their presence amidst intense competition to be successful and remembered by the various shopping crowd segments.

And how the malls do it makes interesting case study as we bid farewell to 'annus horribilis' 2014 and welcome 2015 with hopes for better days. The year-end shopping mall decoration presentations here are more modest than in previous years.

A crucial factor towards success in innovation is the ability to pivot and persevere.

While passion and conviction in business pursuit are admirable qualities, it is also important to put emotions aside in evaluating plans objectively. It is not enough with just providing playgrounds, Cineplex and bowling alleys for non-community locale malls to differentiate.

For example, if there are competitors out there with better products and solutions decisions have to be made whether to alter plans to face the competition or change ideas for a different pursuit like Low Yat and Karamunsing Complex opting for specialisation in IT products and services.

The Riverson Walk here next to the Imago Mall is capitalising on medical tourism to bring the crowd to its shops, as shopping is also recognised as a therapeutic experience for some people.

Ultimately members of the successful business community would be the most reliable sustainers of the local property market, whether in good or bad times.

The wealthy in Malaysia and Sabah who are cash rich could always afford to buy property without needing any loan if there are no issues with the tax authority investigating them. This year's property market outlook also depends on their spending pattern. Many had spent more overseas than investing in the local property market.


The same could be said for their shopping habits, and it remains to be seen whether new local malls here like Oceanus to Imago to Riverson Walk for a start could corner a good percentage of these spending flowing out of the state. Only time would see whether the city's shopping weightage would gravitate towards Kota Kinabalu South.

The business community generate wealth and buy property, for example like a couple from Sarawak importing pepper to be mixed with grounded rice power to adulterate the mixture to be supplied to eateries is just one of local businesses involve in property investment with its profits.

It is not only the oil palm small holders who were the dominant players in the local property market as the government expects 2015 output of palm oil to reach 20 million tonnes.

Today's fast-paced business market means that there are more opportunities. At the same time, success has become fleeting and uncertain for many not able to innovate with finesse.

There were cash-collecting eateries and stores that faced no debt collection problems that closed down shortly after opening for the lack of clientele.

Crowds seen thronging the Oceanus information counter here to apply for a membership card is just one of the differentiation tactics that the city's newest mall introduced to attract local visitors.

Its three-storey high Christmas tree was popular with the photo-taking crowd and its running live entertainment over the holidays drew the attention of the public, and tourists appreciate Sabah's own unique performers like the Bamboo Band.

The upcoming opening soon Hard Rock Café is Malaysia's most spacious in terms of floor space bigger than Kuala Lumpur or Penang.

The exclusivist KEE Club is coming to Kota Kinabalu in the form of a boat that was brought over from Penang and refurbished here that would be parked off shore the Oceanus Mall here.

It will position to be the social hotspot to be desired, seen and see who is who beyond the hoi polloi as the club is styled as the ultimate home from home for an eclectic mélange of cultured, influential and trend–setting artists, innovators, executives and socialites keen on the finest food, wine, art, culture and interesting people. KEE Club members are said to hail from all walks of life, from business professionals, to artists who can afford to pay the membership fees.

The club has an elite paid membership following in Shanghai and Hong Kong where business deals are made and transacted amidst fine wining and dining comingling with the right crowd in the conducive atmosphere or ambience akin to the local coffee shop dealings that Sabah is known for, albeit in more sophisticated settings.

In contrast, an antique or collectable market fair within Oceanus Mall during weekends draws a different crowd of collectors and bargain-hunters.


Only time will tell if the Oceanus Mall version here will be another niche success story in comparison to similar size City Mall. Innovation is not always about an idealistic young at heart person coming up with the next big idea to take the world by storm.

It can be something as simple as adopting a different approach to processes within an organisation to drive better results and efficiency. Regardless, at the core of these developments are two things; embracing the innovation culture and forming collaborations in innovation.

Experts opined that vital key factors for successful innovation are having the dare to fail attitude by managing the risk and reward equation, being able to pivot and persevere and forming collaboration in innovation.

However, the property development market is unique in the sense that results like failed abandoned projects have great social implications and hence need governmental regulation to avert any foreseeable possibility with strict laws and safeguards. Failure is undesirable.

No doubt, individuals or businesses try to prevent failure by being prepared and conducting thorough market research and risk assessment analysis for their products and ideas.

Ultimately however, innovators and entrepreneurs need to follow their instincts and passion in turning ideas to reality and launching new products and services. If they fail, they should not be too disheartened. Instead, the factors for failure should be analysed and the key learning used to try again, say the experts.

Sure, we have all heard of and been inspired by the many success stories that have emerged from Malaysia. These successes are often romanticised, even coming across as instant and overnight. Yet, what many did not realise is that for every success story, more may have failed.

Nevertheless, entrepreneurialism and "inventive solutions" form the intellectual capital of the country to be able to compete with others.

There is a role for government, not just in providing the rule of law and a common fair framework for doing business, but also in subsidising basic research.

But if the government gets too involved in business, stymying private enterprise through cronyism monopoly, over-regulation, discrimination in issuing licenses and central planning, the intellectual enterprising capital of the country would be affected.

Presently, the Federal Government targets to see 360 high-impact innovative products to be commercialised within the next five years. In order to achieve this target, research funds amounting to RM290 million were promised for implementing various high-impact R&D programmes.

In view of the realisation of the Asean Economic Community, globalisation and increased competitiveness, it is timely to strengthen entrepreneurship in Malaysia.


The key aim should be to encourage the local entrepreneurship to have a more global outlook beginning with 2015 being a promising starting year for innovative entrepreneurs as well as for new malls in Sabah striving to be the leading East Malaysian shopping destination here in the state capital.

Kota Kinabalu may not be the same again with innovative finesse.

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