Leading by Gastronomy

We haven't been looking at property much since Cities within a City. One of the 'cities' covered in that post was i-City, which we visited a couple of weeks back. Some notes on that and other retail matters. [Image: Café Amazon @ i-City]

Leading by Gastronomy
  • As expected for a new mall, not all shops were opened. But most shops at the lower ground floor (mainly F&B) were and the space was buzzing.
  • Not bad for a pre-opening, suggesting a well thought out, diverse F&B mix is a good lead for a mall launch.
  • Contrast this to some malls which, though surrounded by many famous food outlets, were themselves initially rather sparse with F&B offerings.
  • IOI City Mall host a popular F&B lower ground floor too though i-City pushes the envelope further by being more compact and sporting an organic design (meandering curved spaces vs a straight avenue at IOI City Mall).
  • Pluses: no zig-zag escalators (they annoy more than 'increase foot fall') and Mr DIY's shop entrance cleverly facing the apex of the escalators at the top floor (the shop was well patronized).
  • Minus: the dedicated ramp to i-City from the Federal Highway (from PJ/KL) doesn't actually lead to the carpark.

Robot Retail
  • Speaking of Mr DIY, it recently opened its 500th outlet at 1Utama.
  • Compared to its earlier days, we noticed it has exchanged depth for breath, perhaps its data analysis suggested dropping slow moving items in favour of using its shelf space for broad A/B testing.
  • For example, it used to stock a large variety of screwdrivers of all shapes, sizes and quality but is now restricted to a 2-3 brands, and it no longer stocks niche items like aircon rods.
  • Mr DIY is an example of we we would call 'Robot Retail' in common with KK SuperMart and 99 SpeedMart.
  • Robots are not necessarily Terminator like, they could be envisaged as well-oiled, effective systems with capital and momentum.
  • While mom-and-pop hardware shops are holding well against Mr DIY (which despite its name is more a generic retailer), mom-and-pop grocers face a mighty threat from KK, 99, MyNews and FamilyMart.
  • [On the plus side of retail chains, they open up in less glam areas ahead of demand and are quick to spot opportunities to fulfil unmet demand.]

The Neighbourhood Grocer
  • This year, at least three Raya videos incorporated the humble kedai runcit (grocery store) in their story line: MediaPrima (the village hub), Sunway (the gift of rice) and MEA (dodol snacks),
  • As mentioned in the previous section, mom-and-pop grocery stores have been in decline in tandem with the rise of chains.
  • Chains are perhaps an example of the concentration of economic power, not necessarily through any untoward intentions on the part of the large retailers but as a result of technology and 'Robot Retail'.
  • In the days of yore, if you had home baked biscuits for sale, you could approach a mom-and-pop grocery store owner and asked if he (or she) was willing to resell them or sell them on consignment.
  • If the owner did not agree, you could try another (and another until you found a grocer who liked your biscuits.)
  • Now, you would probably need to run a gauntlet of stern corporate purchasing officers (or sell direct online if you have the savvy and resources).
  • In essence, the small stores (sample) each make their own decentralized purchasing decisions giving a different colour, depth and breath to retail.
  • How to give a helping hand to the mom-and-pop grocery stores? As consumers, buy from them (if not all the time, at least occasionally). Or maybe (as a thought experiment) KK, 99, FamMart and MyNews should accept e-payments only, and only small stores can accept cash.