Rising Phoenix of Retail

Though given a negative prognosis, Raffles City Shanghai has proved naysayers wrong with its success

Issue: Oct 2009

Raffles City Shanghai has become a lifestyle landmark in China's most fashionable city
Raffles City Shanghai has become a lifestyle landmark in China's most fashionable city

If you're a young, upwardly mobile professional in Shanghai, chances are you have been to Raffles City Shanghai. The integrated development, comprising an eight-storey retail podium and a 51-floor office tower, has become a magnet to the young and trendy since its launch in November 2003.

The 8-storey mall at Raffles City Shanghai is a magnet for the young and trendy
Located in the busy downtown area, it is near the city's famous People's Square and is directly linked to the metro station where three subway lines converge.

"Raffles City Shanghai is a lifestyle landmark in Shanghai. We have positioned ourselves as the '100% Fashion Hub' as we are trendy, young and vibrant," said Rachel Wong, the mall's General Manager. "Our target market is those between 20 and 35 years old urbanites who are fashionable, and also the key spending group in Shanghai."

Expatriate Mason Harrison, 31, said, "It has reasonably priced retail outlets, and the mall space is more open and comfortable than other malls around People's Square," he said. Ironically, Chinese national Emi Wang, 26, complains that the mall has become "too crowded" for her.

Bold move

More than 4000 people work at Raffles City Shanghai's office tower
Raffles City Shanghai's success today is vindication for its developer CapitaLand China. Its former CEO, now CEO of The Ascott Group Limited, Lim Ming Yan revealed that the project was almost shelved in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. Among the challenges was the perception that the development would not do well as it was not in the prime shopping area in town, at that time.

"We changed that perception," said Lim. "Now people accept that it's a good retail area and for high-end offices." Today, the office tower, one of the tallest in the city, boasts an impressive line-up of tenants that include Internet search engine giant Google, Japanese shipping company NYK Line, and the ANZ Bank.

Lim added that CapitaLand also had to sell a new mall retail concept. "At that time the market was dominated by departmental stores. One store, in particular, was stopping small retailers from signing up to do business with us in the mall. We had to overcome that, and convince retailers to place their bets on us," he said.

One of the earliest retailers was Watsons, a major health and beauty retailer in Asia. According to its general manager Rod Routley, business at the flagship store at Raffles City Shanghai has grown rapidly. "Over the years, there has been an improving mix of retail tenants. The management has been able to pick up on trends, and bring in new brands to drive traffic," he said.

"If you go in the mall at anytime of the day, you'll see vast numbers of young people. And this group is very much our target market: the 18- to 35-year-old working lady."

National sales manager for L'OCCITANE (China), Su Jun, said the mall has given the French skincare brand a platform to showcase its products. "Traditionally, departmental stores in China would offer us only a counter space, but here, we could set up a boutique," he explained in Mandarin. "Young people these days won't go to the traditional stores. The newer malls offer them an experience beyond products - there's also entertainment like movies and food."

Youngsters performing at the fifth anniversary celebration of Raffles City Shanghai in 2008

Attracting the In-Generation

Apart from presenting a good mix of local and international retail stores, the mall organises a slew of events and activities all year round to keep young people coming. In February, a Valentine's Day event saw hundreds of young couples vying for the "Match Made in Heaven" title. Held in conjunction with Jessica, a popular local women's magazine, the event drew hordes, especially when the finalists had to kiss passionately in public.

Raising the temperature during Valentine's Day

The Market Place attracts the human traffic from the metro station which is directly linked to Basement 1
Carrie Mei, 33, an administrator, frequents the mall where she is a member of Physical Fitness and Beauty, a gym on the seventh floor. "I often meet my friends here because it's very centrally located," she said. "I also like how each floor is themed, especially the basement which has a wide selection of food."

Like all Raffles City malls, each floor is organised by theme. Level 1 boasts an array of International Collections; Level 2 is a spread of international high street brands like Mango and Motive. Ladies Fashion is found on Level 3 while Men's World and Casual Wear is on Level 4. Sports lovers can head to Level 5 for sportswear and then to Level 7 for a gym workout. Food lovers have a choice of eating at the restaurants at Level 6 or the Market Place at the basement.

The Market Place was introduced in 2007 after a revamp. It offers a smorgasbord of food and lifestyle offerings unique to the Raffles City brand. Here, shoppers can sink their teeth into burgers from Carl's Jr or satisfy their sweet tooth at ShengDaCheng, a household name for local desserts. They can also pick up a pair of shades from ParisMiki, or stock up on facial products from THEFACESHOP. The concept proved to be so popular that it was replicated at the newly opened Raffles City Beijing.

Loyal tenants

Raffles City Shanghai has been dubbed by Frommer's Travel Guide as "one of the biggest draws for hip mall rats" in the city. The mall, which celebrates its sixth anniversary this November, has also won several awards, including Best Commercial Value at the China Business News TV Real Estate Awards held in Shanghai.

Christmas: The mall attracts shoppers with themed Christmas decorations and events every year
Su of L'OCCITANE said that its four-year-old store at Raffles City Shanghai is now a top performer among its 43 China outlets. "The management understands our brand and what we want so when it comes to promotions and events, they are pretty in sync with us," he said.

The positive relationship convinced the brand to lease a second store in Raffles City Beijing while talks are underway for more L'OCCITANE outlets in Raffles City Ningbo and Hangzhou, which are currently being developed. "We're very satisfied, and basically, where Raffles City opens in China, we will follow," said Su, giving a firm testament of the mall's success.

Raffles City Shanghai
268 Xizang Middle Road, Shanghai, China

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