The festive battle of malls has begun

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The race is on to see who can put up the most dazzling Christmas decorations for year end.

The race is on to see who can put up the most dazzling Christmas decorations for the year end holidays.

The festive battle of malls has begun

The annual competition for the most captivating Christmas attraction is reaching new heights as malls across Malaysia vie for the attention of year-end shoppers in a bid to fight for shopping dollars. Despite the festive cheer, shopping mall managers are tirelessly working to outshine one another in the realm of decorations.

In cities throughout Malaysia, the race to attract Christmas and year-end shoppers is in full swing, with malls sparing no expense to create crowd-pulling displays. Millions of ringgit are invested during this season to not only ensure a surge of shoppers eager to spend but also to craft an atmosphere that enhances their overall experience.

This competition is intense, pitting shopping malls against not only each other but also against their own previous year's decorations. The exact amount spent is often a closely guarded secret, with major players like Pavilion Kuala Lumpur alone is estimated to allocate between RM6 million and RM8 million annually for advertising and marketing. A significant portion of this budget is earmarked for Christmas, capitalising on the peak year-end spending period, although some is allocated for other festivals.

Sunway Property, another prominent mall player, dedicates a substantial budget to Christmas decorations across its many malls. With Sunway Pyramid, Sunway Velocity, Sunway Putra and not to mention their Sunway City Iskandar Puteri’s Big Box Retail Park and Citrine Hub in Johor, the master community developer is a veteran in drawing Christmas crowds.

Malls typically allocate funds for decorations during four main festive periods: Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Aidifitri, Deepavali and Christmas. Christmas, being synonymous with year-end sales, easily commands nearly half or more of the entire decoration budget.

While the other three festivities are rooted in diverse cultural and traditional values, Christmas stands out for its emphasis on the spirit of giving to others. As malls continue to invest in creating enchanting Christmas displays, the competition remains spirited, promising shoppers an increasingly magical and immersive holiday shopping experience each year.

Malaysia's retail industry sales have always been the strongest in the fourth quarter with December being the prime shopping month. Last year, the retail industry sales grew 13.7% year-on-year in 4Q 2022.

In fact, after two consecutive years of dismay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysia's retail industry recorded a positive growth rate of 33.3% for the entire year of 2022, according to the Retail Group Malaysia (RGM).

However, in September, RGM revised downwards Malaysia's annual retail industry growth rate for 2023 to 2.7% from 4.8%. Despite this, it still foresees a projected growth rate of 3% for 4Q 2023, higher than the year’s growth.

To recap, RGM said although shopping traffic has returned to pre-Covid level, the spending power has been weakened in recent months. The Malaysian retail industry is still facing several major challenges for the rest of this year.

It noted that while the monthly inflation rate has eased during the last few months, the price increments of many basic necessities and consumer goods are still higher than pre-lockdown.

“Weak Malaysian currency in recent months has led to another round of price increases due to higher import costs of raw materials, semi-finished goods and finished retail goods,” RGM said.

Nevertheless, the December spending still remains to be seen as shopping malls deck out their Christmas decorations in a bid to draw shoppers to their respective venues.

Festive frenzy

The allure of festive decorations is not just about creating a visually pleasing atmosphere – it is a crowd magnet, according to retail experts. Social media, with its pervasive influence, has become a game-changer in this scenario, turning shoppers into promoters.

According to a retail consultant, the connectivity facilitated by social media platforms significantly contributes to drawing larger crowds. Shoppers not only enjoy the festive embellishments but also actively share their experiences online, creating a ripple effect that attracts others to witness the spectacle.

Posting photos on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks has become a common practice, turning shoppers into inadvertent brand ambassadors. The consultant emphasised that the role of social media in spreading news and encouraging others to visit shopping venues, contributing to the overall festive buzz.

Moreover, social media serves as a valuable tool for mall management. It allows them to monitor the effectiveness of their decorations, make real-time modifications, and strategize for future crowd-pulling events. Swift responses to negative feedback ensure a seamless and enjoyable shopping experience for visitors.

A recent tour of shopping venues in Kuala Lumpur during the weekend affirmed the impact of social media and festive decorations on crowd sizes. Malls adorned with Christmas decorations, such as Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Mid Valley Mega Mall and its adjoining Gardens Mall as well as 1Utama Shopping Centre, buzzed with shoppers and social media influencers. In contrast, malls yet to unveil their festive decor saw comparatively fewer visitors.

 

Pavilion Bukit Bintang's beautiful Christmas decorations this year.

Pavilion Bukit Bintang's beautiful Christmas decorations this year.

 

Times Square and KLCC Suria Mall’s Christmas decorations were still in working progress as of the publication of this article. While many shoppers mulled over the giant Christmas trees and gingerbread houses and stalls being set up, they were nothing like Pavilion Kuala Lumpur’s crowd, who were already in a frenzy taking photos for their social media sites.

The influence of social media was evident as Christmas photos flooded platforms like Facebook, prompting more people to visit the decorated venues in person. The consultant’s prediction proved accurate, as the cyclical process of online sharing and offline visitation continued.

Beyond visual appeal, shopping malls recognise the importance of providing a holistic experience for shoppers. Factors like easy access, convenient parking and a diverse lineup of brands contribute to the overall shopping experience. Shoppers seek more than just a place to shop – they desire an immersive and enjoyable experience.

Malaysia Shopping Malls Association president Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok said inter-mall competition will always remain intense, particularly for new malls but it is precisely this competition that stimulates mall evolution and enhancements for the ultimate shopping experience. 

“The only constant in our industry is change where malls constantly evolve and develop by continually adopting creative ideas in product or tenant mix, visual merchandising and marketing and operational services and facilities in order to attract and offer fresh experiences for shoppers,” he said.

Tenant mix also plays a crucial role in attracting crowds, with the right combination of brands appealing to the target demographic. Even if a mall lacks the grandeur of the Pavilion's decorations, a fun atmosphere and unique attractions can still draw in visitors.

In essence, the convergence of festive decorations, social media influence and a thoughtfully curated tenant mix contributes to the success of a mall's crowd-pulling strategy. As shopping evolves into an experience-driven activity, malls strive to create an enticing and enjoyable environment that goes beyond the traditional retail space.

Embracing sustainability

Minimising expenses during festive seasons does not necessarily mean consistently allocating hefty budgets for decorations. Several items can be recycled, offering a sustainable and cost-effective approach. Christmas trees, wreaths, mistletoe, shiny globes and ornaments can be safely stored and reused in subsequent years.

The essence of a Christmas tree remains constant; what evolves are the decoration items, adapting to the theme of the year. Storing and reusing Christmas trees is a practical strategy that optimises spending. By being judicious with financial resources, businesses can extend the lifespan of their decoration items, accumulating a diverse collection over the years.

This approach aligns with the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle, showcasing a smart and sustainable way to approach festive decorations. By adopting a more thoughtful and frugal strategy, businesses can not only contribute to environmental conservation but also ensure more efficient utilisation of their annual budget, resulting in an expanding array of decoration items for future Christmas festivities.

 


 

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