How Hong Kong malls use health and wellness to lure customers back, starting with millennials
Landmark, Pacific Place and K11 are among the Hong Kong malls responding to growing interest in health and sustainability by adding new services and tweaking the retail mix
Hongkongers love shopping and eating in malls, but evidently not quite enough to keep them visiting (and spending) to the same extent during an economic slowdown.
As GDP growth has slowed in the city and in China, mall operators have looked for new ways to entice shoppers back. One answer has come in the form of a rapidly growing global industry: health and wellness.
People in Hong Kong are becoming more health conscious, resulting in a boom in wellness concepts ranging from boutique gyms and athleisure stores to juice bars and organic grocers. A recent study by Stanford University found Hongkongers are the No.1 walkers in the world, taking an average of 6,880 steps a day (the lowest ranked of the 46 countries and regions in the study, Indonesia, managed only 3,513).
Having started small, the health and wellness movement is now hitting the masses as large developers transform high-end malls into wellness destinations.
“People are starting to really care about their health, and how they live,” says James Assersohn, director of Asia-Pacific retail at JLL Hong Kong, a property services firm. “As such, the physical side of wellness is being catered to by landlords. Sportswear and sports brands came in first and have been aggressive to expand. Fitness studios and athleisure brands have started to follow.
“Many developers are going a step further by giving customers more interaction with nature and the outdoors. For example, there are plans to include a running track in the new Lee Gardens Three development [in Causeway Bay].”
Earlier this year Landmark Atrium in Central, known for its luxury-brand boutiques, launched a women’s beauty and wellness concept featuring 12 beauty, health and wellness outlets. Customers can enjoy organic juices at Catch Juicery or gluten-free treats from The Cakery; buy athleisure wear at Caelum Greene; and indulge in beauty treatments such as a blow-dry at Airplay, teeth whitening at Smile Dental Surgeons, and luxurious facials and treatments using natural skincare products at No.8 Organic Spa by Beyorg.
“It was difficult to get mall developers on board when we started in 2005,” says Beyorg founder Brenda Lee. “We approached the biggest landlords, but they didn’t understand the concept. But it was only a matter of time before the trend grew and now we have seven stores as well as an online shop.”
At Pacific Place in Admiralty, sportswear apparel is a major draw for health-conscious customers. Local chain GigaSports has a large presence, while D2R offers niche fashion and athleisure brands new to Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, Pure Yoga will open a studio in the mall in September, offering specialised classes including “Yoga for Office Workers”, exclusive to Pacific Place and designed to alleviate aches and pains associated with sitting in front of a computer. It will also sell activewear and run a healthy cafe on site.
“The health trend is reflected in people’s shopping habits and preferences,” says Fiona Shiu, general manager of Pacific Place. “We have seen a change in consumption patterns, so we have increased sports elements in the mall. It’s really about a total experience, as customers are looking for wellness concepts in various categories, whether in F&B or fashion and apparel.”
In Kowloon, the K11 mall in Tsim Sha Tsui has taken a more holistic approach to wellness with the launch of K11 Natural last December. Billed as an “experiential zone for nature and craft”, the space features stores that sell everything from organic produce to zero-waste clothing, and a “farm to table” restaurant called Something Wild – The Farm.
K11 offers cooking and gardening workshops where visitors can learn to cook fresh organic meals or get tips on how to grow vegetables at home. Meanwhile, the mall’s K11 Kulture Academy offers a wellness programme, run by current tenants and invited guests, that covers subjects such as growing micro greens or healthy eating for babies. The initiative has been so successful that there are plans to roll out the concept across China.
“Hong Kong shoppers want an experience,” says Rebecca Woo, operations director (Hong Kong) at K11 Concepts. “Wellness concepts have become popular with shoppers because they are not only looking for functional outfits for sports, but also personal enhancements through body and mind experiences. Wellness is in what you see, what you eat and what you experience, so we have created the concept of a dedicated zone under one roof. It doesn’t exist anywhere else in the market.”
It seems the demand for wellness is only set to grow thanks to its core customer group: millennials. According to recent studies by Nielsen and Deloitte, millennials around the globe will continue to drive such demand, as their generation is most conscious of sustainability.
“Millennials are more focused on personal growth and becoming the most one can be, physically and emotionally,” says Charlotte Tsuei, owner of Caelum Greene. “I feel that wellness is a natural extension of that – it is a daily and active pursuit for them.
“Many studies have demonstrated that millennials are the first generation to ‘influence up’ to Gen X and the baby boomers, affecting their interests and purchasing behaviours and further increasing the importance of, and demand for, wellness concepts.”
“It will become less about the big brands and more about the curated stores,” Assersohn says. “We will also see more crossovers with other industries such as fashion – which is already popular – design and art. As long as people feel it’s contributing to their health and peace of mind, they will be willing to spend.”