SHOPPING CENTRES represent a crucial element of the social and economic health of Hong Kong's community. Not only are they an integral aspect of everyday life, but their development and refurbishment help revive and regenerate the city. In an increasingly consumerist society, malls provide a critical social benefit. Good shopping centres help improve the quality of life of Hong Kong's population, so the management of these centres is vital. Langham Place, which was completed in 2004, is a leading example of a modern shopping centre that is also an urban renewal project comprising a 15-level shopping mall, a 60-storey grade-A office tower and a 42-storey five-star hotel. 'By virtue of its sheer volume and its stunning construction, Langham Place has proved to be a catalyst of change and progression for the whole district,' said Vivian Leung Wai-mun, senior marketing manager for Great Eagle Estate Agents. Since its opening, it has been a magnet for shoppers and has transformed the surrounding cityscape. Langham's success has been built on several factors. 'Nowadays, customers are not only looking for a shopping centre that provides them with needs at a practical level, such as shopping and dining. To attract and retain them, a shopping centre should also provide leisure and social attractions,' Ms Leung said. Langham Place has succeeded in this by providing a varied menu of community events, shows and performances, and attractions such as daily live music, a gigantic in-mall LED screen and the chance to meet regional pop stars. 'In addition to the marketing mix, community-related activities are also a key, PR-oriented, long-term tool, positioning the shopping centre as an integral part of the community,' Ms Leung said. Olympian City is another high profile community shopping centre, with about 200 tenants, 800,000 sqft of space and about 400,000 visitors each weekend. The centre was opened by Sino Estates in 2001. Providing a sense of community and an entertainment experience has been essential to the success of Olympian City. 'Last year we put on 520 special events and this year we forecast 700 events. We are known as a 'stardust' shopping mall because we frequently have celebrity guests here. People in Hong Kong love it and it's great for business,' said Irene So Kit-lin, general manager, retail marketing and promotions, Sino Estates Management. With competition in Hong Kong such as it is, these activities have become essential to attract crowds and therefore the walk-through traffic which hopefully leads to sales. 'There are so many shopping malls nowadays we have to do something dynamic in order to attract people, not just for branding but because people expect it,' Ms So said. However, there is more to shopping centre management than providing entertainment. Customers come for a day out. 'The most important thing is the tenant mix. Our visitors come to shop, but also [to] dine and relax. So besides shops, we have plenty of food and beverage outlets, a bowling centre and cinema. It's a combination of things,' Ms So said. Hong Kong's love affair with shopping centres means that there are plenty of them. And plenty of jobs, especially in retail, marketing and management. 'We need experienced marketing officers and creative people for helping with our special events,' Ms So said. 'Each event needs to provide something new. We also need experienced managers to help run the shopping centre. And they need to be dedicated. It's a long but interesting working day.' With its prime waterfront location in Hong Kong's tallest building, the IFC mall is one of Hong Kong's most high profile shopping centres. Housed in the 4.7 million sqft IFC complex, the mall has lured many first concept tenants and international brands to Hong Kong, such as Zara, Damiani and Valentino. It has a wide variety of restaurants and Central's largest Cineplex. IFC mall strives to offer a sophisticated ambience, which distinguishes its managerial concept from other malls. 'In addition to a careful selection of tenants, IFC mall has aimed to offer customers more than they expected, whether it be convenience of parking and premium concierge service, or the luxury [of dining] overlooking our wonderful harbour, or even the occasional one-off such as a massive Picasso display or a top-of-the-range sports car launch,' said a spokesman for International Finance Centre Management. IFC mall also offers regular special events with a cosmopolitan feel in recognition of an international and expatriate clientele as well as the local population. Recent examples are the Italian Festival 2006, the Experience Wales Exhibition and the 'A Taste of France' food festival. 'We recognise that shopping is not just about the end product or service,' a spokesman for the mall said. 'In Hong Kong especially, customers are looking for a total shopping experience. From day one, IFC mall's mission ever since the opening has been to inspire.' The IFC mall has brought about a new and rising demand for quality customer service representatives in shopping malls. 'IFC mall was the first in Hong Kong to bring in the concept of providing a hotel-style range of customer services to enhance shoppers' shopping experience,' the spokesman said. Customer service representatives must be pleasant, friendly and multilingual so that they can serve both locals and tourists.