Shanghai malls haven’t been doing too hot lately. The Cloud Nine Shopping Mall in Zhongshan Park can claim to be “the city’s biggest shopping center in terms of floor space,” but suffers from a severe lack of tenants and had to cede their home-grown basement grocery store to Carrefour in in June due to lackluster sales. In July, the Los Angles Times exposed Shanghai’s luxury malls as “ghost malls“, spearing Plaza 66 and others for renting space to designer name brands at cut-rates in order to create a façade of prosperity and high fashion for the city.
The Cloud Nine Shopping Mall story is very similar to that of another recovering near-failure, the Super Brand Mall in Lujiazui. Headed down the ghost mall road, Super Brand’s management pulled an about-face late last year and called in a Canadian shopping center expert to change the mall’s focus, from peddling luxury goods to catering to Shanghai’s white-collar class and foreign residents. Today’s Metro Express commuter paper and other online Chinese media confirm that, ironically, the Canadian formula consists of bringing in several bastions of the white bread American experience: Shanghai’s second Hooters, a Scholastic Books-affiliated English learning center, and by the end of this year the flagship Chinese location of that infamous evangelist of abbreviated English, Toys R Us. Will this mean we can finally buy a set of UNO cards without making a trip to Hong Kong? And will we ever see Tim Hortons make an appearance at the Super Brand?
(Reportedly the Canadians have also offered their help to the Cloud Nine Mall.)
Fun trivia: The Chinese name of Toys R Us is officially “玩具反斗城”, which means something like Toy Jumble City.