Pokemon fever too good to resist for struggling HK retailers

Theme park and shopping mall operators launch dedicated events in attempt to lure gamers, and lift footfalls

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 9:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 10:48pm

Major Hong Kong tourism and shopping hotspots have been rushing to cash in on the citywide Pokemon Go craze with numerous events being organised, centred entirely around the smash-hit mobile game, to reinvigorate the city’s lacklustre retail sector.

Three park and shopping mall operators — Ocean Park, Sun Hung Kai and Swire Properties — told the Post they were in talks with Pokemon Go’s developer Niantic over potential cooperation on future campaigns themed with the augmented reality game.

Niantic is part-owned by Japanese videogame giant Nintendo.

Since its launch in the city on Monday, Pokemon Go, which allows players to use their phones’ GPS and camera to capture virtual Pokemon in the real world, has been all the rage across the city’s most bustling districts.

“We are seeking collaboration opportunities with the game’s creator, with more details to be announced soon,” said Maureen Fung, director with Sun Hung Kai Development (China).

“We expect to see a double digit growth in our traffic and an 8-10 per cent leap in retail sales during the Pokemon Go event period,” Fung said.

A spokesman for SHKP’s APM mall in Kwun Tong said it had implemented more “Lure Modules” — a function that makes it easier for players to find and catch the Pokemon — around the shopping centre, and updated the whereabouts of the virtual monsters on its social media pages “on a frequent basis.”

Fung said the developer now plans to roll out Pokemon-related events at 12 of its shopping complexes.

The Pokemon Go mania comes as traditional retailers continue to struggle against their online counterparts, both in Hong Kong and around the world.

Terence Chan, head of retail, Hong Kong, at real estate consultant JLL, said the sudden rush in interest offered a great opportunity for outlets to cash in.

“It is a nice marketing tool for stores and restaurants, particularly those looking to attract youngsters,” he added.

It is a nice marketing tool for stores and restaurants, particularly those looking to attract youngsters
Terence Chan, head of retail, Hong Kong, at real estate consultant JLL

Another leading property developer, Swire Properties, is utilised its Facebook and Instagram accounts to help customers spot Pokemon at its three flagships Cityplaza, Pacific Place and Taikoo Place.

“We have a large number of Pokestops and a few Pokegyms,” said a Swire Properties spokesperson.

“Additionally, we have approached Niantic Labs for further potential collaborations.”

Pokestops and Pokegyms are where players can train and battle their Pokemon.

Elsewhere, six shopping arcades operated by Sino Group, including Olympian City in Kowloon and Citywalk in New Territories, are running promotions.

While a spokeswoman for Ocean Park revealed that the 39-year-old theme park had already become involved in discussions with US-based Niantic before the game even landed in Hong Kong.

“The talks are currently underway and may take into account issues like copyright,” she added.

But at least one leading retail site owner said he would not be relying on luring and accommodating gamers to turnaround its fortunes.

Chiu Kwok-hung, chairman of Fortune Real Estate Investment Trust told local media on Tuesday that his malls did not intend to join hands with Pokemon Go as “an influx of people who don’t actually shop in the malls will in turn hinder your business”.