Too many malls

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Recently I was at the Danga Mall in Johor Baru, over a decade since my last visit. Gone were the bookstore and the shop that sold magic tricks and pranks - indeed, gone were many shops of all kinds. The mall had reinvented itself to be a technology centre ala Low Yat, but those shops barely filled a floor or two; the rest of the space was empty, desolate, a ghost town.

Many of the older malls around my town seem similarly haunted - still holding on with the few shops and supermarkets they have left, even with renovations and facelifts, but entire floors barren of any signs of commerce. The contrast between those malls, and the newer flashier malls full of bright lights and activity, was striking - and yet I knew that soon, those shiny shopping centres will soon face the same fate as their predecessors.

Yet major Malaysian businesses keep building new malls in our already cramped cities. The Sunway Group announced last year that 40 new malls will be built by the year 2020, with 10-12 slated to be open this year. The largest outlet mall in South-East Asia, the Mitsui Outlet Park near KLIA Sepang, opened last year. Entire hotels, residences, and townships are being built around the most capitalist of infrastructure.

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