Some retail analysts are warning of a 'blood bath' in the New Territories where just less than five million square feet of shopping centres are expected to be built in the next few years. This is while some existing shopping centres remain 70 per cent vacant. 'Every developer has a podium and every podium has a shopping centre,' Vigers retail division head Wu Po-ong said, describing the pace of shopping centre proliferation in the New Territories during the past few years. Analysts are predicting the smaller shopping centres will eventually give way to the larger 'mega-malls' planned for the New Territories. Mr Wu said the situation facing centres in the New Territories was a serious one. 'The current shopping area per capita is more than all the purchasing power of the local people and of tourist arrivals,' he said. Retail Management Association chairman Rodney Miles said there were 'hundreds of stores empty' all over the New Territories and outer Kowloon area. Some of the centres with vacancy rates of 60-70 per cent were in Kwun Tong, Tai Kok Tsui and Sheung Shui, he said. Large amounts of empty store space could also be found in centres in Ma On Shan, he said. That was disputed, however, by a number of agents, who said that shopping centres there looked 'lively'. According to another estate agent, the Yuen Long area has been hard hit by vacancy levels, which in some cases are about 40 per cent. Analysts agreed there were some centres in the New Territories which were thriving, due mainly to good location and proper management and a large enough catchment area to support them. These centres included the Sha Tin New Town Plaza, Tuen Mun Town Plaza and the shopping centre in Tai Wai. 'The shopping centres that are performing well are well managed, accessible and have a sufficient catchment area,' one estate agent said. According to Mr Miles and a number of retail analysts, at least part of the reason for the high vacancy rates was the high rents developers were charging. 'In some cases they are asking $30, $40 and $50 per square foot when in reality they should be asking no more than $10 per sq ft,' he said. At those prices, no shops would go there, he added. 'If they want the malls to prosper they should be asking reasonable rents,' Mr Miles said. One analyst said many landlords were of the opinion that rents should outpace inflation, no matter what the circumstances. Another said that for too long developers had simply expected rents to increase year after year. Another contributing factor was there were too many medium-sized shopping centres of between 100,000 and 200,000 sq ft built since the late 80s and early 90s. Analysts said developers built these centres thinking they could attract shoppers 'just by putting in a Giordano'. The present high vacancy rates in many malls showed that was faulty logic, they said. According to a number of retail analysts, people in Hong Kong were sick and tired of the same old names in their shopping centres. Analysts said they were now besieged by developers asking them to develop new concepts and themes to attract shoppers. According to Mr Miles, the excess shopping space is not going to disappear overnight. 'This [excess space] is going to take three to four years to work itself out,' he said. According to Mr Wu, it was the smaller shopping centres that would suffer in this 'survival of the fittest' battle as tenants flocked to the bigger mega-malls due to come on the market. 'If landlords are not flexible, then the tenants will not stay,' he said. For some malls it would become a vicious circle as tenants left and business fell off, forcing other tenants to move out and leaving some centres virtually empty, analysts said.