JOHOR is a shopping haven for Malaysians and tourists whose goals are to find good bargains at the best possible prices.
In the past decade, more big names in shopping and retail have expanded to Johor, and this has made the southern state a lively shopping destination, gradually becoming on par with the likes of Klang Valley and its immediate neighbour, Singapore.
While a majority of the shopping malls and retail offerings in Johor are located in the state capital of Johor Baru and its surrounding areas in Iskandar Malaysia (situated in south Johor), lesser known shopping malls in other Johor districts are catering to an increasingly affluent crowd with a taste for high fashion brands.
As a result, popular brands such H&M, Uniqlo and Starbucks Coffee have expanded in the state and set up outlets in other big towns including Kluang, Batu Pahat and Muar.
Shoppers from all over Malaysia now flock to the Johor Premium Outlets in Kulai, especially during the festive seasons and mid- and year-end sale periods.
Johor Premium Outlets was developed at a cost of RM300 million six years ago by Genting Simon, a unit of Simon Genting Ltd, which in turn is a 50:50 joint venture between Genting Plantations Bhd and Premium Outlets.
MALLS IN JOHOR
Johoreans and Singaporeans can count on established malls like Aeon Tebrau City, Aeon Bukit Indah, Komtar JBCC, Johor Baru City Square, KSL, Galleria@Kotaraya, Angsana Mall, Plaza Pelangi, Holiday Plaza and Mall of Medini to get their fix on the best in retail therapy.
In other districts out of Johor Baru, shoppers are spoiled for choice with the Kluang Mall in Kluang, Batu Pahat Mall and the Summit (both in Batu Pahat), Wetex Parade in Muar, 1Segamat in Segamat and Aeon Kulaijaya and IOI Mall Bandar Putra in Kulai.
Shoppers will have more to cheer about as there are at least 10 more shopping malls slated to be opened in the next five years. They include Paradigm Mall JB, Capital 21, Ikea Johor Baru, Mid Valley Southkey Megamall, Aeon Bandar Dato Onn, Mydin Mall Mutiara Rini, Plaza Tasek Central and Country Garden Danga Bay.
Seri Alam Properties Sdn Bhd senior general manager Frankie Tan Kiat How said Johor’s shopping scene relied on the huge spending power of Singaporeans due to the favourable exchange rate.
However, he said, more Malaysian shoppers were also heading to Johor to shop at places such as the Johor Premium Outlets.
“As a developer, I know that the Singapore factor is still very important when it comes to pulling the crowds to Johor shopping malls.
“For example, the upcoming South Key Mid Valley is very strategic and obviously targeted at Singaporeans similar to Komtar JBCC and Johor Baru City Square,” he told NST Property.
Tan said the “box type” of shopping malls from big names such as Aeon Co (M) Bhd and Tesco Stores (M) Sdn Bhd were the main players in many urban areas in Johor, similar to what was happening in other urban areas in Malaysia.
“It is different with downtown Johor Baru. There are more upscale outlets in the city centre, which are not anchored by Aeon or Tesco,” he said.
Tan also welcomed Ikea Johor Baru, which would be built in Tebrau, adding that the furniture brand’s presence in the state was long-overdue.
“There are many Johoreans who travel all the way to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur to buy items from Ikea. Now with one opening in Johor Baru, it will be good for Johoreans.”
He said shopping malls were enablers and created multiplying effects in business, population and property sales in Johor.
“People buy property based on availability of infrastructure, schools and shopping malls.”
Even Johor’s decision to revert its weekend to Friday and Saturday three years ago was a boon for shopping outlets.
“Business for shopping malls are better because there is a sort of three-day weekend for them. The government sector in Johor is off on Friday and Saturday, but the private sector is still off on Saturday and Sunday.
“Traffic at malls has also improved because the crowd is spread evenly between Friday and Sunday,” added Tan.
Kluang Mall executive director Tey Fui Kien said Johor had three major market areas that were acknowledged by shopping mall operators.
“Southern Johor is anchored by Johor Baru, northern Johor, which is technically two parts - Segamat and Muar, which are more than an hour apart, and finally, central Johor, which features Kluang and Batu Pahat.
“Essentially, central Johor is a 90-minute drive away from either Muar in the north or Johor Baru in the south and therefore forms its own market catchment,” said Tey.
She said Kluang, which was in central Johor, had a population of more than 300,000 while Batu Pahat comprised more than 400,000 people. This means the central Johor market has a catchment of 700,000, collectively.
However, Tey pointed out that Kluang and Batu Pahat were 45 minutes apart, and each town had its own sizable population catchment to serve.
“Within the Kluang district, Kluang Mall is the only 100 per cent fully-owned, for-lease shopping centre in town. The others are strata-titled. There are two large hypermarkets, two smaller hypermarkets and a couple of department stores in Kluang town centre.
“Collectively, we estimate that there is only one million square feet of retail space for a population of over 300,000,” she added.
Tey said residents in Johor’s major towns, such as Kluang, Batu Pahat and Muar, were increasingly demanding for more prominent retail and food and beverage brands to be set up closer to their turf, which prompted names such as H&M, Uniqlo, Cotton On, Starbucks Coffee and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to expand to these districts.
She said a major finding in a survey conducted on 1,121 shoppers in Kluang Mall in the past revealed that shoppers wanted better brands.
“Every couple of months or more, they would drive out to Kuala Lumpur or Johor Baru to shop but now they wanted those choices in Kluang.
“This was how we came to the conclusion to create a ‘Fast Fashion Zone’ and bring in H&M, Uniqlo and Cotton On since two years ago. This was what Kluang folks wanted,” she said.
Tey said Kluang Mall recorded more than 6.2 million visitors last year with a monthly average of more than 500,000.
“Our occupancy is currently around 98 per cent. We do also employ turnover rent at Kluang Mall and now, over half our tenants are on some form of turnover rent provision,” she said.
In addition to the conventional type of shopping malls in Johor, there are retail spaces integrated with transportation terminals such JB Sentral, Larkin Sentral and the upcoming T-Sentral in Taman Ungku Tun Aminah, Skudai.
Transport operator Handal Indah Sdn Bhd (ancillary business) general manager Goh Lak Jin said the transportation-cum-retail hub, slated for opening by the end of the year, would cater to the 1,000 daily bus commuters as well as residents living in the neigbourhoods around Skudai.
“The T-Sentral is modelled after the concept of an integrated transport hub with retail and food outlets, like the NTUC Fairprice Hub in Jurong, Singapore,” added Goh.