From IFC to iAPM, Shanghai clones Hong Kong malls
Clones of mall landmarks in Causeway Bay and Central are popping up, but while locals are window shopping, they are cautious on spending
A woman walks past the towering ICC complex then attends a class at Pure Yoga. After the workout, she grabs something to eat at city'super before heading to browse at Lane Crawford in Times Square. You might assume from the names that this is taking place in Hong Kong. But it is in fact Shanghai.
Already a rival to Hong Kong for clout as a global finance centre, Shanghai is stepping up its offerings as a shopping capital, too. Carbon copies of Hong Kong shopping landmarks have popped up in the city, replicating Hong Kong's retail scene from the names right down to the design of the buildings.
Gleaming new mall iAPM, which houses well-known Hong Kong brand city'super and has a Pure Yoga studio, opened in August. The Sun Hung Kai Properties development is anchored by a two-storey Prada store and sister brand Miu Miu, and more than a dozen other luxury brands. The soaring ceilings and curves of shop windows mimic its sister project in Kwun Tong.
"I live next door to iAPM and it's literally like having Hong Kong right there," says Jacqueline Kwok, a Hongkonger who has been working in Shanghai for the past three years.
Shanghai native Cai Renbin says the malls are an exciting development, which cements Shanghai's status as a world-class city. "I really like those modern buildings. As a local Shanghainese, I'm actually quite proud of seeing the construction because it can prove Shanghai is an international city," he says. "Shanghai will be more like Hong Kong in the future."
The cloning of Hong Kong shopping malls in the commercial capital of the mainland goes back to 1999 when Wharf (Holdings) opened a replica of its Causeway Bay Times Square mall on Huaihai Lu. That was followed three years ago by SHKP's IFC centre in Pudong.
This year in particular, Shanghai experienced a spurt of development by Hong Kong retailers and mall developers.
Last week, Lane Crawford celebrated the opening of its flagship Shanghai store, the luxury department store's largest to date. Besides iAPM, the K11 mall opened in May, and like its counterpart in Tsim Sha Tsui, it appeals to consumers' tastes for shopping and art.
There's also the new Jing An Kerry Centre. Although there's no direct parallel for that in Hong Kong, it oozes the style and sophistication of a Hong Kong mall and boasts many of the city's most prominent brands, like Pye by socialite Dee Poon and b+ab from fashion mogul Shum Kar-wai. The only thing retailers and mall developers haven't been able to replicate is a tax-free shopping environment.
It's early days yet at these malls. Several of the tenants within the complexes are not yet launched. However, three months after iAPM opened its doors, the only real bustle of activity on a Friday night is a queue outside Jesse's, a restaurant known for serving authentic Shanghainese food.
The stores at the Kerry Centre on a Saturday afternoon are eerily quiet - the mall's hi-tech motion sensor escalators stay still and shop staff idle around.
"My friends and I, we don't really go there," says Summer Zhang Shoufeng, who works as an account manager for a hotel supplier. "If we want to buy something, we still prefer to go to Hong Kong or abroad because it's cheaper there."
Originally from Shandong, Zhang has been living in Shanghai for eight years. Well-travelled and well-heeled, she's been to Hong Kong, Japan and all over Southeast Asia and Europe, spending most of her money on shopping when she travels.
If she sees a certain style of luxury-brand product she wants now, she can just ask one of her friends to bring it back from abroad, she says. Chances are one of them will be travelling overseas and she won't have to wait too long. "If I really want it, they will buy it for me and I can just give them money," Zhang says. "I go [to those malls] for dinner, to watch a movie, that's it. Not for shopping."
Even Cai, as proud as he is that his hometown now boasts these topnotch malls, says he doubts local Shanghainese will buy luxury goods there because of the price difference.
Andrea Fenn, managing director at Fireworks, a luxury brand consultancy on the mainland, said: "Consumers are extremely shrewd. Even if it's a Ferrari, they don't want to pay 100 kuai more than what they know it's worth. If they know they can buy it somewhere else for cheaper, they will. A lot of Chinese luxury consumption is based outside China. They send someone to Paris or Hong Kong because they know it's cheaper."
To get an idea of the mark-up, a men's shirt costs 1,180 yuan (HK$1,490) in the Kerry Centre Pye store, compared with just HK$1,080 at the brand's outlet in Pacific Place. This premium is common among foreign brands and, after taking the strong yuan into account, mainland consumers are often paying upwards of 20 per cent more than customers elsewhere.
That may alienate Shanghai residents, but property developers are counting on shoppers from second- or third-tier cities, for whom paying 20 per cent extra is a more agreeable option than the costs and hassles of a flight and permit to visit Hong Kong.
"We expect these malls will attract people from the inland. They don't have a chance to go to Hong Kong because it's not easy for them to apply for a permit. It's easier for them to go to Beijing and Shanghai and it gives them a new kind of shopping experience," says Wesley Wu, a luxury and retail analyst with Ipsos.
"SHKP is building complexes with the same names and designs to give it the prestige that Hong Kong already has. It's just like Shui On is doing that with Xintiandi around China," says one mainland property developer, referring to the Hong Kong company's retail and entertainment projects modelled on its developments in the upmarket Shanghai precinct.
"It's so hard to get the brand name out to the public. I think it's a great strategy for them. Everybody talks about going to IFC in Central or Times Square in Causeway Bay. It's a symbol."
Glitzy building designs and luxurious labels aside, Shanghai may also be signing itself up for the same problems as Hong Kong. Just as Hongkongers have long complained that Hong Kong malls do not cater to locals, Shanghai malls may no longer be for Shanghai shoppers.