Singapore-style mall in the heart of Shanghai
SINGAPORE -- Walk into CapitaMalls Asia's (CMA) bustling Raffles City property in the heart of Shanghai and you'll feel like you are back in Singapore.
At the edge of the historic People's Square, CapitaLand's mixed-use retail and office development is now one of the firm's prized trophies in its aggressive push into China.
Singaporean shoppers will be greeted by a distinct sense of home in the mall. On the first floor, a familiar BreadTalk bakery, then several floors above, a food court just like those back home.
About half the size of Ion Orchard, the mall is spacious, clean, brightly lit and has a mix of mid-range to high-end stores.
But going back 15 or 16 years, the group's initial foray into China's retail scene was nowhere near as successful, as the Asian financial crisis took its toll.
The ground-breaking for the US$350 million Raffles City Shanghai was in 1996, but construction slowed down in 1997 as the region's economies were thrown into massive upheaval.
The project was delayed and financial write-downs were estimated to have run into tens of millions. Naysayers called for the project to be abandoned or even pushed back by up to 10 years.
Little did they realize just how quickly China's economy would be roaring again.
The project was restarted in late 2000 and by the time it was open for business in 2003, the developers were enjoying strong occupancy rates.
Some of the tenants, such as Charles & Keith and BreadTalk, have been with CapitaMalls Asia in China since day one.
Charles Wong, co-founder of Charles & Keith, said they did not know many Chinese mall landlords initially and Raffles City Shanghai provided them with the “right entry point.”
“It was a good start having our first store in the right mall with a good location... We've been working with CMA for a long time in Singapore; they know us well and we know them well too so there's a certain understanding there.”
George Quek, chairman of BreadTalk Group, said its first store in China, also in Raffles City Shanghai, paved the foundation for BreadTalk to spearhead its 250 outlets across 43 Chinese cities now.
“This first entry with CapitaLand can be credited strongly for the strong branding that BreadTalk has built in the China market,” he added.
“As Singapore companies, there is implicit understanding and chemistry in the way we operate as trust has also been built over the years. This understanding and faith for each other is important as we grow together in this market.”
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