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Travel & Holiday

Fashion wholesale mall opens in KL

Kenanga Wholesale City offers volume discounts, aims to emulate success of similar malls in region
The Straits Times - May 27, 2012
By: Teo Cheng Wee
| More
Fashion wholesale mall opens in KL Kenanga Wholesale City houses 800 shoplots across nine floors. -- PHOTOS: KENANGA WHOLESALE CITY

Thailand has one. Indonesia has one. Now Malaysia has one too.

Malaysia's first fashion wholesale mall opened yesterday, enticing retail shoppers with the kind of volume discounts once available only to business buyers.

Situated in the Jalan Kenanga area near downtown Kuala Lumpur, Kenanga Wholesale City (KWC) houses 800 shoplots across nine floors, selling clothes, handbags, shoes and accessories.

KWC aims to be Kuala Lumpur's answer to Bangkok's Platinum Fashion Mall and Jakarta's Mangga Dua wholesale complex - two established regional shopping centres popular with locals and tourists.

Like Platinum and Mangga Dua, KWC grew out of an older wholesale fashion market.

The low-rise shophouses surrounding KWC have been home to Malaysia's main fashion wholesalers for decades. There are about 500 wholesalers in this area, many of which started out as tailors in the 1970s and today supply boutiques in many of Malaysia's shopping malls.

Many have opened outlets in the mall, while keeping their old shops outside.

But unlike the cramped street shops, where clothes are stacked up high with minimal displays, the outlets in KWC are mostly boutiques that cater to casual shoppers.

'Grouping the wholesalers together in a mall creates a buzz,' said Mr Joseph Ng, who runs Milan Promenade, a shop selling women's blouses in KWC. 'I think many of the wholesalers jumped on board to expand into retail because they didn't want to lose out on this opportunity.'

Typically, discounts - which can range between 10 per cent and 60 per cent - kick in when one buys three or more items. Shirts and dresses, for instance, cost between RM20 (S$8.20) and RM30.

'This concept is tried, tested and proven to be hugely successful in other Asian countries,' said KWC general manager Henry Chua, pointing out that South Korea and China has such malls too.

Malaysia's Tourism Ministry promotes the mall in publicity materials and tour buses stop by regularly. KWC, which has been operating for seven months but was officially opened only yesterday, gets up to 250,000 visitors a month, evenly split between locals and tourists, said Mr Chua.

But customers and shop owners say it will take a while for KWC to challenge the likes of Platinum and Mangga Dua.

Assistant marketing manager Lee Bee Lin said she found it hard to score deals when she visited the mall last week.

She noted that some shops did not allow customers to mix their clothes, meaning one had to buy three of the same item before they could get a discount.

'It's better in Platinum, where you can pick any three items. Here, some shops insist you buy one design... It's not very customer-friendly,' said Ms Lee, 31.

What's more, unlike its Bangkok and Jakarta counterparts, KWC is not located in the city's main shopping district, and is quiet on weekdays.

Mr Chua said customer flow should improve when all the shops are open in about three months. Many lots are still undergoing renovation.

He said KWC's management has been advising the wholesalers how to sell to retail customers.

'Many are facing retail shoppers for the first time, so we're working with them on customer service as well as finetuning the choices they provide,' he said. 'We hope to do better, to attract more customers.'

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