Monday 05 Jun 2023
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This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on August 22, 2022 - August 28, 2022

Strolling in UDA Holdings Bhd’s Angsana Johor Bahru Mall is quite a sensory experience — the shops are lit up vibrantly and sounds of people shopping fill the air.

Known as a landmark and one of the oldest malls in Johor Baru, Angsana Johor Bahru Mall has won the Silver award for the 10 Years and Above Retail-Non-Strata category.

UDA Holdings Bhd CEO Mohd Salem Kailany says in an email, “On behalf of UDA and Angsana Johor Bahru Mall, we are grateful for being given the opportunity to win this prestigious award. We would also like to thank our suppliers, vendors, contractors, tenants and visitors who have been supporting us since day one in 1997.

“Throughout many stages of judging, we were pleasantly surprised with this recognition for Angsana Johor Bahru Mall in this category. This is a memorable moment for us and it has come at the perfect time as [the mall] will be celebrating its 25th anniversary on Oct 16,” he notes.

Completed in 1997, Angsana Johor Bahru Mall has a total built-up area of 1.03 million sq ft. The mall, which is situated on a nine-acre plot, has a total net lettable area of 399,192 sq ft. It has a total of 250 units and is currently 94% leased.

Completed in 1997, Angsana Johor Bahru Mall has a total built-up area of 1.03 million sq ft

“During this endemic phase, we have managed to increase our mall occupancy rate from 92% to 94%. [During the pre-pandemic period], it was about 98%,” highlights Salem.

“Being one of the oldest shopping malls in Johor Baru, winning this award proves our relevance among the local industry players through strategic maintenance and sustainable actions that we have improvised from time to time in order to fulfil the needs and necessities of the building as well as tenants and visitors.”

Salem adds that the recognition is a testament to the effectiveness of actions taken by the management “in the continuous upkeep of the mall, which brings more visitors and tenants alike to the establishment”.

Angsana Johor Bahru Mall, formerly known as Plaza Angsana, is strategically located along Jalan Tampoi, within the highly populated 298-acre Pusat Bandar Tampoi. Popular among Malaysians and Singaporeans, the mall has an aesthetic design and practical layout.

Designed as a family shopping, leisure, entertainment and F&B centre, Angsana Johor Bahru Mall has five levels and is surrounded by extensive landscaping. It offers 4,200 car park spaces and 250 motorcycle parking spaces.

With the ever-growing challenges, one thing that remains the same is our appreciation for tenants’ feedback in addressing all cost-related matters.” — Salem

Dubbed as “the most happening place in JB”, the mall attracts more than 12 million visitors annually. Anchor tenants include Al-Ikhsan, Subway, Pierre Cardin, Seoul Garden, Sushi King, Watsons and RHB Bank.

Thriving amid challenging times

Despite its popularity, the mall encounters challenges such as rising costs.

“We face numerous challenges in maintaining the mall. Among them are the increase in utility bills including electricity and water bills; increase in costs of repair and maintenance due to the current economic situation; partial closure and limited business operations due to the Covid-19 pandemic; and introduction of a higher minimum wage of RM1,500 monthly under the Minimum Wages Order 2022.

“With the ever-growing challenges, one thing that remains the same is our appreciation for tenants’ feedback in addressing all cost-related matters,” Salem says.

UDA Holdings has taken steps to ensure it is able to sustain its costs by introducing initiatives such as the Energy Performance Contracting Programme in 2016, and a photovoltaic (PV) system in 2021.

“The management has also implemented a cashless parking management system, effective 2021. In addition, the management has always carefully listened and gives full attention to any issue that arises. Through continuous engagement, we managed to come to a mutual understanding and a win-win situation in solving the problems highlighted,” Salem adds.

“With mutual understanding and appreciation of both parties, Angsana Johor Bahru Mall has succeeded in reducing the impact of challenges faced during the pandemic and the current economic situation.

“Having said that, we believe we should never take any issues for granted no matter how small. The team at Angsana Johor Bahru Mall has been in constant communication with our tenants and suppliers to look at solutions to any problems/issues that arise.”

Sustainability plans

Angsana Johor Bahru Mall has a sustainability plan that consists of four main pillars. “First is revenue, where we explore a new potential area that can generate additional revenue for [the mall] through events, promos and advertisements,” says Salem.

“Second is cost. We have managed it through the implementation of energy-saving [measures] through the energy performance contracting programme since 2016 (in which we managed to save about 25% on electricity costs), a solar PV system and a cashless parking management system (both effective 2021). [We also regularly conduct corrective and preventive maintenance on our facility].”

The third pillar is the retail concept. “We do continuous improvement on our positioning in the market to suit current needs such as making the establishment a family-friendly spot in Johor Baru and a digital business hub.

“We do relook at the market trends and potential business expansion; for example, the expansion of F&B outlets in our mall so we [are able to] draw more traffic to the establishment. Our F&B occupancy has increased from 18% in 2018 to 23% in 2022. We also look at [potential] tenant mix — offering variety and comprehensiveness in terms of merchandise and services,” he adds.

The Back to School programme is one of the events organised by the mall to increase its number of visitors (Pictures by UDA holdings)
During this endemic phase, the group has managed to increase the mall’s occupancy rate from 92% to 94%

The group emphasises technology and innovation. “We placed solar cells, building information systems and more. The innovations are to reduce the rising costs of building maintenance and, at the same time, place the mall in line with other market players,” says Salem.

“[Our] future implementations will include the Building Management System (BMS) and Building Integration System (BIS) that link the functionality of individual pieces of building equipment so they will operate as one in an integrated system, providing tools to manage the performance and energy efficiency of the mall and integrated security, CCTV, access control, fire lifts and safety system.

“We would also like to implement air quality management using a building management system, and a pest control initiative,” he adds.

Over the years, the mall has had its fair share of obstacles, says Salem. “Some of the challenges include competition from new malls built in the area. New malls surrounding the area are Mid Valley Southkey, Paradigm Mall and Aeon Mall Tebrau City, Salem says.

“Another challenge is the ageing building — we need to manage the building accordingly, where a certain amount of cost is involved. Over the years, via suitable technology, we have managed to reduce the costs without compromising on the standard of maintenance of the building.”

The group has its strategy to maintain and increase traffic and footfall, especially during the pandemic phase. “In order to draw more visitors to Angsana Johor Bahru Mall, the management continues to aggressively organise events that would capture the public’s attention and enhance the number of visitors to the mall.

“Lastly, online shopping has brought us a challenge to compete with. [As for] the recent trends and challenges brought about by the randomly changing market conditions, management has instilled a positive mindset and attitude in the team so that they can keep up with them and overcome the adversities,” he adds.

UDA Holdings chairwoman Datuk Norliza Abdul Rahim and group chief operating officer asset management Azrudyn Rashid (third and fourth from left) with (from left) The Edge Malaysia editor emeritus and the awards’ chief judge Au Foong Yee, editor-in-chief Kathy Fong, The Edge Media Group publisher and group CEO Datuk Ho Kay Tat and City & Country editor E Jacqui Chan

Capital investments for ESG

In a bid to stay ahead of the curve, UDA Holdings has plans to further enhance the sustainable systems in the mall, says Salem. “Angsana Johor Bahru Mall is in the process of implementing the technological innovations of a smart building. A series of discussions has been made and is soon to be rolled out,” he reveals.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) actions will also be taken in the future, he adds. “In line with ESG, our mall will relook at our four pillars in our future plan. We will also expand on our energy-saving programme that was implemented in 2016 (which includes the installation of solar PV cells and building information systems).

In total, both the smart building implementation and ESG innovations will incur about RM10 million in capital investment. “[This will be used] to furnish our maintenance and equipment in the building with new and updated technology from time to time in order to meet our customers’ needs and comfort,” says Salem.

Moving forward, the group plans to support tenants by providing incentive programmes such as rebates and discounts for a certain period of time. The programmes will be continued depending on the market conditions.

“New tenancy packages would get reviewed from time to time based on market trends. An example is an attractive advertisement package and trial period for new tenants.

“We would also like to build engagement with the Malaysian Retailers Association, Malaysia Shopping Malls Association (Persatuan Pengurusan Kompleks Malaysia) and have direct engagement with retailers.”

The group plans to position itself so it will be on a par with other malls, especially when it comes to innovation and technology for ageing malls. “We would also strategically place our mall for the correct target market and right market segmentation; for example, to increase the number of certain business sectors in the mall such as F&B in order to attract more visitors.”

For example, the group has increased the number of lots for F&B outlets so they could fill up 35% of the overall occupancy.

“Angsana Johor Bahru Mall aims to be a one-stop destination for all ages — to do so, we are planning to drive more tourists, visitors and tenants to the establishment by sticking to our plan on maximising revenue, reducing costs, bringing fresh retail concepts and being ahead with technology and innovation. With this, we will remain relevant against any changing trends and new challenges,” Salem says.

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