One of the most notorious failures among many in China’s shopping malls is the New South China Mall in Dongguan.
Originally marketed as the largest mall in the world and targeting the entire Pearl River Delta with premium outlets, it quickly fell into disuse and ended up in decay as shown in the photo above.
Now it is reopening under new ownership, focused simply on local residents in Dongguan and with a very different mix of outlets.
On its first day back in business last month it claimed 80,000 visitors.
I am sure a lot were visiting out of curiosity, but just maybe they will keep coming back to what in some way is now the largest restaurant in the city.
Fully 40% of the space is not given over to food consumption. Conventional retail takes only 30% and is mostly local brands.
The remaining space is for experiences stores, trying to make the mall a destination in which people will remain in for hours.
The retail space may shrink further as the mall owners see offices, clinics, opticians, dentists, kindergartens, tutoring for children, and gyms as the next focus of their renovation.
What the new owners are doing, on a massive scale, is representative of what is changing in malls across China.
Traditional retail outlets cannot support the economics of most malls; new services are the future if there is one at all.
The need to reinvent is high, although hopefully most can avoid bankruptcy as they do so.
Think of it as a giant food court.