Did you know that 4 out of 21 of the biggest malls in the world are located in Malaysia?
In fact, within the boundaries of KL and PJ alone lie almost hundreds of malls. Without a doubt, Malaysians love shopping with a passion paralleled only by our Filipino neighbours, whose lands host a whopping 23 of the biggest malls in the world.
But the perennial question is, of course: Why?
Why is there such a prevalent culture of consumerism in our country, and why do Malaysians flock to shopping centres every weekend like vultures to a meat disposal site? Did you also know that at least 20% of urban Malaysians spend their weekends in the shopping mall?
This list contains some plausible explanations for what I have come to term the 'Malaysian Shopping Phenomenon".
1. Free air-con!
Let’s face it - this country is, to many degrees, too hot!!
In places like America or England, you can take your dog out for a walk and call it ‘taking a nice stroll’. Here, we call taking your dog out for a walk ‘exercise’, because you will end up sweating within the first five minutes of stepping outdoors.
So is it really any wonder why we end up in malls all the time? It does seem like shopping is one of the most comfortable activities we can do in this country.
2. Everyday got sales and discount
Malaysia is one of the few countries with two seasons all year round -- it’s always hot, and it’s always on sales. We are all suckers for sales.
You are basically not Malaysian if 1) you don’t like free stuff, and 2) you don’t like a good bargain. Housewives (arguably every shopping mall’s most valuable funding group) line up for hours to pay for their truckload of groceries when stores offer rebates.
We are smart consumers, we cackle gleefully as we take back our receipts and purchases with a barely disguised air of triumph.
3. It's more convenient than a convenience store
Say you stay in PJ and your friend stays in KL. Where’s the most convenient meeting point? Mid Valley Megamall-lah. Say you want to get your grocery shopping done, but need to print out some documents and also need to get a new shirt and movie tickets for that date tonight?
Shopping malls are your answer. Besides being located strategically, they have literally everything under one roof -- from clothes to food to laundry to cinemas to books to electronic appliances to bowling to ice skating too!
4. Window shopping is free
Guess what is one of the cheapest activities you can do in Malaysia?
Some days, when those of us earning less money are feeling particularly inclined to self-inflicted torture, we go to shopping malls and stare at all the pretty new shiny stuff as motivation, provided we get immune to the temptation of buying.
5. Outdoor is the new indoor.
As a consequence of our very hot, very humid weather, Malaysians have an unfortunately limited range of options for alternative activities. And with malls diversifying to include stuff like rock-climbing, archery, karaoke and bowling within their wonderfully air-conditioned walls, it’s no surprise that most Malaysians go to malls more often than we go to outdoor places for recreational activities.
6. Easy to find parking
If you live in PJ or KL, you’ll understand the tragic difficulties that plague us car drivers when it comes to looking for parking. With shopping malls, at least you can be assured of parking, even if it could take you 30 minutes of driving around in the carpark to find a spot during the weekend.
7. Plenty of events in the mall!
Looking at investing in property? Or buying a new car? Perhaps you’re a prospective college student wanting to attend an education fair, or really interested in teapots.
Welcome to the shopping mall, where they not only have everything under one roof, but also a variety of events such as property fairs, car promotion events, education fairs and even tea conventions.
Most events these days are held in malls, and part of it is probably because these companies are smart enough to take advantage of the free air-con and the diverse crowd all over the Klang Valley.
8. You will not get mugged or kidnapped in a shopping mall.
Since a botched kidnapping in a nearby shopping mall years ago, shopping malls have been actively taking steps to ensure the safety of their customers.
With security guard escorts, women-only parking spaces and emergency buttons installed in their car-parks, going to a shopping mall is certainly much safer than having to walk through alleyways -- where you might be robbed -- to get to your car.
Moral of the story?
Malaysians aren't mere shoppers. We are shopping mall enthusiasts. Looks like shopping malls are here to stay -- which I won't complain about because hey, in Malaysia, the answer to life is air-con.
This story is the personal opinion of the writer. You too can submit a story as a SAYS reader by emailing us at [email protected]