Shops at new Hong Kong border mall will have rent waived after ‘unsatisfactory’ opening weekend

Fees will be waived for as long as two months after traders say outlet-style shopping centre saw only a handful of shoppers on first day of business

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 6:32am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 6:32am

The operator of a border shopping centre is forgoing rents for as long as two months in a desperate bid to keep the project afloat, two days after the outlet-style mall opened.

Shops already operating at The Boxes in San Tin and prospective tenants moving in between now and March will have their monthly rents waived and will only need to pay a management fee of HK$14 per square foot, according to legislator Wong Ting-kwong, who is behind the project.

Wong admitted the public response on the first day of business on Saturday was “not satisfactory” but said it was much better on Sunday.

Only a score of shops opened for business on Saturday, reportedly attracting only some 100 local shoppers by early afternoon. Some shopkeepers complained about poor turnover, about HK$1,000 for the day, while some shoppers complained that the mall was “deserted” as too few shops had opened.

But Wong said on Monday: “It has been picking up quickly [on Sunday and Monday] after we arranged a shuttle bus service to ferry shoppers from the border to our mall.”

He said he heard from some shopkeepers that their business had soared more than tenfold, and there had been many more shoppers browsing around.

Operator of Hong Kong’s The Boxes mall near Shenzhen border scrambles to meet soft launch deadline after Christmas

On the need for the rent waiver, Wong said: “If we can attract more tenants, it is good for the retailers there and also good for Hong Kong.”

The original rents were about HK$67 a square foot to HK$107 a square foot. Preferential rents had already been offered, cutting prices to HK$26.8 a square foot to HK$42.8 a square foot for the first two months of the mall’s operation.

Wong maintained there was strong interest in the space.

“Over 50 per cent of the 216 shop lots have been rented out, and for another 30 per cent of the shop lots, deals are being struck,” said Wong.

The border shopping centre, a stone’s throw away from the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint, was originally intended for mainland shoppers.

Taking some 30 months from planning to completion, the mall consists of 216 shop lots as well as restaurants and entertainment options.

Hong Kong border shopping complex set to open in July – two years behind schedule

Wong came up with the idea to capitalise on the influx of mainland shoppers and traders who bought baby milk powder, cosmetics and other necessities in Hong Kong to sell for a profit across the border.

But anti-China sentiments in 2015 has resulted in fewer visitors coming to the city. Shenzhen residents are no longer allowed to make unlimited trips to Hong Kong, capping visits to once a week to deter parallel traders.

The 420,000 square foot plot has been leased to the mall owner at a HK$1 nominal fee by Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development.