Brighter prospects for malls, says Junaidi

KUCHING: Shopping malls are more attractive prospects compared to traditional shoplots despite the increasing development of commercial areas here.

According to Santubong MP Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, the trend to own and rent spaces in new malls is more promising than the commercial shoplots.

“In fact, we don’t have the “critical mass” and buying power like in big cities. Kuching and its greater areas have roughly about 700,000 people, with perhaps only about 150,000 to 200,000 having the capacity to buy properties. The number of commercial property buyers and tenants is even smaller.

Wan Junaidi

“These make commercial shoplots and spaces even more difficult to sell and let. At the moment, the trend to own and rent spaces in new mall is catching up, with customers shifting from traditional shops to malls,” he said.

“Tourist arrivals are unable to complement the small population in order to create a vibrant trade in any cities in Sarawak. Hotels and malls in Miri survive because of the frequency of day and overnight trippers from Brunei,” he said.

Wan Junaidi also said that Kuching had a smaller tourist arrival from Kalimantan because of the distance and roads link and “smaller middle class” groups from Kalimantan.

“From my observation, in Kuching only the ground floors of shop houses are occupied with a few on the first floor while the second and third floors are generally empty,” he pointed out.

“People are buying for keeps and long investment with no potential for immediate returns. That is why in the early 2000s, the chief minister then tried to discourage the construction of too many shop houses,” he said.

Wan Junaidi further explained that in 2016, the then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak echoed the same thing, when he encouraged the construction of more tourist facilities instead of shopping malls.

“Remember “the bubble burst” in Thailand which brought down the economies of East Asian nations including Malaysia in 1997. This perhaps was in the mind of the two Barisan National leaders at that time when they thought out aloud on the building of shop houses and malls,” he added.