Comfortable walking shoes? Check. Wallet full of credit cards? Check. Some of the world’s most spectacular shopping is found right here in Kuala Lumpur. Editor Chad Merchant shrugs off the risk of buyer’s remorse and reveals in a bit of retail therapy as his adopted city finds itself increasingly named near the top on a variety of “best shopping” lists.
It’s no secret to our neighbours to the south that Kuala Lumpur is a shopper’s paradise. Singaporeans flock to KL in droves to take advantage of Malaysia’s excellent value. From regional favourites to iconic international brands, all the most popular names are found right here, and shopaholics from all over Asia find themselves tempted and tantalised as they flit from boutique to department store in some of the world’s biggest and best shopping malls. If you want to act like a tourist for a day in your own city, a trip to the mall is a good start.
Though it’s not a surprise to see KL featured on a list of the world’s top shopping cities, it’s certainly astonishing to place so near the top. In fact, in CNN’s recent “World’s 10 Best Shopping Cities” list, which named the international cities that consistently delivered the best, most gratifying shopping experiences, KL placed fourth, bested only by the world-beating financial and shopping triumvirate of New York, Tokyo, and London, in first to third places, respectively. For CNN’s research, they not only used an scoring formula that judged cities in four categories – getting around, value, variety, and overall experience – they consulted worldwide experts like Donegar Creative Services and Global Blue, which publishes the Globe Shopper City Index.
And speaking of that index, Kuala Lumpur was recently ranked there as Asia’s second-best shopping city, just a bit behind Hong Kong. Global Blue uses a comprehensive approach in its index methodology, factoring in quantitative data such as number of shops, availability of international brands, number and duration of seasonal sales, exchange-rate stability, and cost of in-city accommodation, as well as more qualitative data, like popular events, immigration procedures, transportation convenience, and agreeability of climate. To make indicators directly comparable across cities, these values were turned into standardised scores on a scale of 0 to 100. They were then aggregated into category scores and an overall score. Kuala Lumpur scored 65.1 overall, which compares quite favourably to European pacesetter London’s overall score of 67.3. Malaysia’s capital city ranked particularly high in the subcategories of number and range of malls and boutiques, affordability of hotels, dining options and international cuisine, and shopping hours. Digging deeper in the CNN ranking, KL earned its impressive score due to a “winning combination of high-quality shopping, affordable prices and reliable sales, which can stretch for several months.” Not a surprise to KL residents, given the comfortable ease with which fine dining outlets sit next to hawker centres, and how shoppers can go from browsing the boutiques of some of the world’s loftiest brand names before lunch to haggling over the price of pashmina scarves and traditional herbs in Chinatown by early afternoon.
And if KL isn’t garnering attention worldwide for its variety of shops and range of goods and services, then it’s making a lot of noise by flexing its breathtaking “mall muscle.” An astounding three of the world’s largest ten malls – and four in the top 15 – are in the KL area. Surely the most posh are mainstays like Suria KLCC, Starhill Gallery, and Pavilion KL. But for sheer size, you can’t beat 1 Utama, the fourth-largest mall on Earth. With some five million square feet of leasable space, this behemoth monument to retail therapy houses over 700 stores, and offers two cinema multiplexes, as well. All this shopping goodness is spread over two huge wings and with so many shopping choices under one roof, 1 Utama consistently draws the crowds from near and far.
Not far behind is the appropriately named Mid Valley Megamall, eighth-largest in the world. This vast and well-known mall serves up 4.5 million square feet of shopping space, and that’s before adding in its upscale sister mall, The Gardens. With a dizzying array of shops in these conjoined malls – from specialty wine stores and dozens of dining options to the boutiques of well-known brands such as Louis Vuitton, Armani Exchange, and Versace, marathon shoppers can burn up their credit cards as they burn off some calories… the Mid Valley complex will ensure you put those comfortable walking shoes to good use.
Next on the list is the sprawling Sunway Pyramid, which ranks as the ninth-largest mall in the world. This landmark complex, with its giant pyramid and sphinx leaving no doubt as to where you are, offers some 800 shops and stores to the adventurous shoppers who arrive en masse every weekend to not only browse the department stores and fashion boutiques, but to eat at the mall’s many food outlets, aim for a strike at its 48-lane bowling alley, catch the newest Hollywood release at the cinema, or even lace up the skates and take to the ice at its popular ice rink.
Of course, if it’s high-end international branded goods you want, head for the city centre. The world’s most luxurious names in jewellry, fashion, and more can all be found in KL’s Golden Triangle. In fact, for those with a taste for high-end watches and jewellry, it could be that Starhill Gallery will meet every conceivable desire. With nearly three dozen superlative boutiques offering the latest designs, this luxury retail mall truly embodies top-tier shopping at its very finest. Of course, just steps away from Starhill is the posh mall that anchors the Bukit Bintang shopping scene, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur. With over 500 stores, Pavilion KL serves up the ultimate expression of designer luxury with an impressive collection of international boutiques. When it comes to couture, Pavilion is a world-class destination of choice for the fashion-minded.
And if that’s not enough shopping for you, just take an easy stroll through air-conditioned walkways from Pavilion to Suria KLCC, the stunning mall set beneath the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. With six floors of shops big and small, there’s something here for everyone. For fashionistas, brands such as Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Cartier, Giorgio Armani beckon, while top department stores like Isetan, Parkson, and Marks & Spencer provide one-stop shopping for clothes, fragrances, and housewares.
As Kuala Lumpur continues to make a bigger splash on the international stage, it cannot be overlooked the role that shopping has played in the city’s evolution to becoming a world-class city. Malaysians have long known the variety, value, and sheer scale of KL shopping, and now, increasingly, the rest of the world is coming to appreciate it, as well.
Source: The Expat February 2013
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