retail mid-term: shopping centers in surabaya

In Surabaya, there are an abundance of retailers that congregate into one, which can be assumed as shopping centers/malls. Since Indonesia is still a developing country, people often shop in low-class shopping centers due to financial crisis and difficulties—therefore, low-class malls are often over crowded with customers. For high-class malls, it can be assumed that they are also crowded with people. However, the majority who visits high-class target-market malls are the ones who wish to go sight-seeing while wearing their most fashionable attire, without actually buying anything. The same thing goes with middle-class shopping centers’ visitors, who sometimes only visit the malls to buy their own necessities, and then go home without doing any sight-seeing.

Malls that are usually visited by people are the ones who promote high-class capitalism, especially foreign brands such as Victoria’s Secrets, Watsons, Charles & Keith, and so on. When Pakuwon Mall first opened in West Surabaya area, many people were extremely interested to go visit, thus making the mall to be overly crowded. Per usual, people are pushed with extreme curiosity and primitive/postcolonialism thinking which idealizes international retailers over local ones. When fast-fashion retailers such as Stardivarius, Pull & Bear, H&M appear in West Surabaya, people basically go nuts on shopping, so that they can appear more fashionable than their peers. Or others might only go to those retail shops for sight-seeing as most people are basically turned on by the sweet lures of capitalism in the form of foreign retail brands. The marketing techniques that these retailers do are so out of this world—they don’t use basic banners or plaques anymore. Instead, they use massive TV-screen in the middle of the store, to promote their new products. Now, now, to put it simply—which one lures customers more, a 70% discount in Matahari (a local department store) or an all-item 70% discount in Zara? Most people definitely choose the latter choice over the previous one, with the usual reasoning of: “Zara is a high-class brand”. With all due respect, Zara—in actuality—is  only one of those fast-fashion retailers that cater to average-income customers in Caucasian-majority countries.

Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that there are some failed shopping centers in Surabaya, such as Lenmarc, City of Tomorrow (Cito), and Marvell City. Shopping centers that lack customers happen because they do not satisfy the needs, aesthetically or literally, of millennial generation. An archetype can be seen through the shopping center that is located right by Ciputra World. That particular shopping-center used to be ridiculously filled with myriad of people back in the 80s, but now the building becomes one hell of a haunted house. Lenmarc, which is located in West Surabaya, used to be a high-class shopping center. Years ago, Lenmarc refused middle-to-low tenants that wish to sell their products in the particular mall; therefore, it only offered luxurious retailers such as Mark & Spencers, and many other expensive restaurants. Now, Lenmarc becomes one of Surabaya’s ghostly shopping malls with approximately 100 visitors a week. When it first opened, Marvell City attracted a justifiable number of customers—nonetheless, the number keeps going down as time passes. Most wonder why Marvell City fails to succeed, although it has impressive cinema and food retailers. But then again, Tunjungan Plaza and Pakuwon Mall both promote impressive cinema (iMax), reducing Marvell City’s ability to compete with those prominent shopping malls. The awful stories about Marvell City’s initial “haunted” building also worsens the number of customers coming—they’d say something along the lines: “But that mall is haunted!”

Surabaya is an economically fast-growing city whilst also densely populated. With such huge number of people living in Surabaya, not all shopping malls can succeed in attracting customers. This is because most people are too convenient in visiting the shopping centers that they are already familiar with, such as Ciputra World, Galaxy Mall, Tunjungan Plaza, and Pakuwon Trade Center. When people have already been accustomed with certain places, it is hard to alter their interest into something else, something completely different. Experiencing the sweet taste of succeed for a little while, brand new malls such as Marvell City have yet to be left again by customers for older centers like Tunjungan Plaza. This happens all the time as people only crave curiosity! The only thing that keeps these customers to stay a bit longer is innovation. The mall Tunjungan Plaza is always filled with customers all year long, ever since God-knows-when. Why? That is because Tunjungan Plaza keeps trying to improve itself, to the point that it now has a new building called TP 5. The same thing also happens to Pakuwon Trade Center, which almost loses some of its customers—PTC finally got renovated with the addition of Pakuwon Mall. All of these examples epitomize how innovation does play a massive part when it comes to the development of retail corporations.


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