Nearly two years behind schedule, Super Brand Mall, the largest shopping center in Asia, held its official opening yesterday, although management admits it still hasn't signed up tenants for 20 percent of leasable space in the 10-story edifice in Shanghai's Pudong District.
Many of the stores that have signed up to open outlets in the star-crossed mall still haven't opened their doors.
"Of the 350 tenants who have signed agreements with us so far, about half of them have opened their stores or booths," said Lu Jing, an official with Shanghai Kinghill Ltd., a subsidiary of the mall's main investor, Thailand-based Chia Tai Group.
Almost since plans for the mall were first announced, critics have question if such a massive shopping center could survive in Lujiazui, a financial zone where many people work, but few live.
Despite the numerous delays and unleased space, Shanghai Kinghill's Vice President Shen Yiheng continues to sound optimistic.
"It's not that there are not enough companies interest-ed in opening outlets in the mall, in fact they are queuing up to enter," Shen said, adding that the mall is selective about what companies it will allow to lease space.
Chia Tai Group started construction of the mall in 1997, but work ground to a halt in 1998 as the group was hit by the financial crisis sweeping Southeast Asia that caused the fall of two banks helping to finance the project.
To date, developers have invested US$450 million in the 240,000-square-meter mall, which is supposed to house everything from a health center and multiplex cinema to a car showroom and executive club - although many of those facilities have yet to open.
Developers say the facility will not just be a shopping center, but also a tourist attraction.
"So far one-third of the customers are from neigh-boring provinces, the nearby Oriental TV Tower is a magnet for visitors," Shen said.
Speculation that developers were ready to offload the project has been rampant since media reports earlier this month suggesting several separate investors were bidding to buy the mall. While owners have not denied the reports, they say they are still prepared to run the mall even though it will take several years to earn a profit.
"The mall is ready to run in the red during the first three years, but we are confident we will break even in seven years," said Somkit Tan, president of Shanghai King-hill.
They also reported brisk sales from the Lotus Super-market that occupies two underground floors and has been running since July.
"Sales hit a million yuan on an average day with 40,000 to 50,000 customers," said Tan.
(eastday.com October 19, 2002)