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Interview with Celine Ong, Assistant Vice President of Super Brand Mall (SBM) in Shanghai



The Super Brand Mall (SBM) was launched in October 2002. It has a gross floor area of 247,425 sqm and all together 13 floors. Super Brand Mall is set in the heart of Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone directly next to the Pearl Ring overpass. Celine Ong, Assistant Vice President has been working for the Super Brand Mall (SBM) since November 2012 as Head of the Marketing Department. She is responsible for the overall Mall Brand communication and marketing activities plus the Mall venue and advertising space promotion. In this interview, she talks about new projects and the special requirements for shopping malls in China. 

Ms. Ong, what makes the SBM special and different to other shopping malls in Shanghai? 

There are two main aspects that make the SBM different to other malls in Shanghai. The first is its strategic location. SBM sits in the heart of Pudong financial district, near to Shanghai landmarks and tourist spots, i.e the Pearl Tower, Shanghai World Financial Centre, Shanghai Aquarium. It is the only Shopping Mall that has restaurants with a magnificent view overlooking the Bund and Huangpu River. Currently, Super Brand Mall is considered the biggest shopping mall in Pudong area that offers young professionals and families a social place for dining, shopping, entertainment and educational experience. 

What is your favorite store in the mall and why? 

There is one shop that always catches my eyes when I pass by, called Mangano. Although the fashion is not specifically my style, the shop attracts attention because the window display is stylish, a little bit glamorous and chic. Its façade and store design are very different from other stores. 

What is the SBM doing to attract more customers coming visit and spend their time in the SBM? 

Our core customers are white collar professionals and young families with kids from 3 to 10 years. On an annual basis, Super Brand Mall will roll out multiple different activities that include interactive entertaining events and sales promotion to attract the customers in the mall. 

We focus on making our customers prolong their time in the Mall through our signature events, like Thai Festival, Kids Carnival during the Summer Vacation; different festive events, i.e. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day. At the same time we also roll out unique events, that are first in Shanghai and draw a lot of attention, i.e. celebrities meet and greet, famous brand event – Disney, IronMan, etc 

What is your vision for the SBM in future? 

I would think SBM is not just a place for shopping and dining but an entertaining social place for local and international customers. Families and friends can experience services that make their life convenient while shopping, i.e. having comfortable relaxing sitting areas, where they can charge their mobile phones and rest. Super Brand Mall becomes a unique destination at Pudong area where people and romantic couples could spend their evenings at outdoor and indoor restaurants overlooking the HuangPu River. 

How do you judge the role of shopping malls in Shanghai in comparison to other cities? 

Shanghai sets the trends. As fashion metropolis, Shanghai sets the benchmark in regard of design, fashion, technology and creativity. Everything is modern and other cities are learning from Shanghai. 

How do you estimate the function of shopping malls in future in regard of the increasing online competition? 

There is no major effect. Shopping Mall is a place that provides an experience and other social value that is not easily acquired online. People are coming to shopping malls to enjoy themselves, to meet friends and to be entertained. That is why online shopping is not really influencing the SBM. 

You are planning to expand the concept of the SBM to other cities. Why do you expand and why do you think there will be an increasing demand for shopping malls in future? 

Urbanization, education and materialization are the main drivers for the new development of retail brands and shopping malls. As consumer become more affluent, they would prefer more choices to meet their personal needs and achievements. I believe there will be a demand for more high technology and fun entertainment content in the future shopping Mall to compliment their shopping experience. 

Touch Mall is also one of your projects. What is TouchMall and what is different to other shopping Malls? 

TouchMall is an outdoor garden mall for young fashionable people living at surroundings of Xuhui Riverside. Xuhui Riverside is the next up and coming area with lots of development of high end apartments and commercial buildings. 

Why are new mall concepts important? What has changed or will change? 

A shopping mall is not just for shopping anymore. It is a lifestyle experience; a place for families and friends to socialize, bond and place of entertainment. A mall has to adapt to the needs of the customers and to offer activities for their lifestyle. A shopping mall has to create new perspectives for the future. The modernization and the increasing use of technologies bring along new demands to which the mall has to provide solutions. 

Are the requirements for a mall in China different to malls in western countries? And if so in what regard? 

I think that there is a clear difference, at least between malls in China and in European countries. In European countries, specifically in Germany, the customer goes to a mall with a purpose and a shopping list. He knows what he wants and leaves after achieving the purpose or purchase. 

Shopping Mall is a place to visit and relax with family for Chinese and they do window shopping and make spontaneous decisions if there is a promotion. They go to the mall to watch a movie, dine, spa, relaxation, children education and walking around within a comfortable space. So the key concept in China is providing good experiences, service, entertainment and interactive activities to improve their lifestyle. That is what keeps your customers in the mall. 

Interview: Marieke Bossek;

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