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Malls, shopping centers change with times

Aug. 21, 2020

As COVID-19 wanes nationwide, many consumers returning to their favorite shopping centers often find their must-visit stores either updated or replaced.

During the past several months, when fears of the virus kept shoppers at home, many retailers and caterers have used the downtime to renovate their brick-and-mortar stores to make them more appealing. Commercial real estate operators have also made adjustments to tenants' layouts to enhance shopping experiences.

In Taikoo Li Sanlitun, an energetic and vibrant shopping destination in Beijing, more than 20 store venues have been altered.

Among them are newcomer Shake Shack, the New York-style burger restaurant, which opened shop on Aug 10. The chain made its China debut in Shanghai last year.

The new store in Beijing draws inspiration from the capital's traditional courtyard houses, or hutong, with contemporary updated touches. One of the Beijing restaurant's signature items on offer is the Hutong Hawthorn, inspired both by the capital's architecture and the popular fruit.

Meanwhile, at the main entry to Taikoo Li Sanlitun, Starbucks renovated its first flagship outlet on the Chinese mainland and earlier this month launched Bar Mixato, which integrates the modern cafe and bar experience to appeal to young consumers.

Wu Xiaolei, general manager of the north region for Starbucks, said: "Beijing is the first place that Starbucks met Chinese consumers. The newly renovated store is expected to become the company's next coffee landmark and destination for urban culture."

Starbucks opened its first store on the Chinese mainland in Beijing in 1999.

In July, Apple opened an entirely novel store adjacent to its previous location in the Sanlitun shopping and entertainment district. The new store is twice the size of its original and introduces several firsts for Apple such as its latest designs and first integrated solar array in a retail store in China.

Shoppers are beginning to return in numbers to retail destinations such as Taikoo Li. According to first half results of Swire Properties Ltd-which operates Taikoo Li-COVID-19 adversely affected retail investment properties on the Chinese mainland in the first half, yet footfall and retail sales on the Chinese mainland have recovered strongly since March.

Swire's gross rental income from Chinese mainland retail properties in the first half was HK$1.1 billion ($141.8 million), 8 percent lower than in the same period in 2019.

Gross rental income at Taikoo Li Sanlitun in Beijing decreased in the first half of 2020 and retail sales decreased by 38 percent. The occupancy rate was 96 percent as of June 30. Improvement work carried out reinforced the property's position as a fashionable retail destination in Beijing. The refurbishment of Taikoo Li Sanlitun West as an extension to Taikoo Li Sanlitun is expected to be completed by 2021.

A report by RET Real Estate Consultancy said that since June, 188 new stores opened in Beijing, while the number was 173 in Shanghai, 192 in Shenzhen and 128 in Guangzhou. Of the newly opened stores that were either eateries or cafes, in Beijing there were 96, Shanghai 69, Shenzhen 60 and Guangzhou 84. This indicates that an increasing number of caterers continue to expand in Beijing. The report said long-term demand is expected to continue to grow and the prevalence and preference for online shopping during COVID-19 will likely plateau and taper off, laying a solid foundation for quality brands and shopping destinations.