When Sorya Shopping Center announced its planned $5 million investment earlier this week, investors hailed the opportunity to boost the retail business through the planned renovations.
Real estate experts have applauded the news of the mall’s upgrade plans, which will see it re-named to Sorya Center Point, with the overhaul being introduced as a way to raise the bar to higher standards to accommodate international brands.
Earlier this week, Charles Vann, executive vice president of Canadia Bank which owns the mall, told Post Property that renovations would start next month and finish at the end of the year.
Vann said that while there will be interior re-adjustments, the mall will maintain its basic structure.
“[The new] Sorya Shopping Center will provide a totally new experience and atmosphere filled with much convenience, as well as quality products with reasonable price,” he said.
The mall’s facelift will host new international and domestic retail brands offering jewellery, cosmetics, apparel and shoes for women, men and children, and electronics. There will also be banks, and room for recreational offerings such as playgrounds, gyms, a spa centre, a cinema, and food and beverage outlets.
While the concept of improved product quality and shopping convenience has come about due to changing market conditions, Vann said the rebranding move forms part of the government’s plan to boost tourism services.
“The [investment] will contribute to the Cambodian government’s plan to improve the booming tourism industry in the Kingdom. Thus, a new form of international standardized shopping centre must be available to provide services and fulfil the demand of inflowing tourists.”
Dubbed the ‘indoor Central Market’ by some, the Sorya Shopping Centre’s location calls for investment in higher retail standards to attract tourists, which Ross Wheble, country manager for Knight Frank confirmed.
“Sorya Center Point is in a prime, central location just a stone’s throw from Central Market, one of Phnom Penh’s most popular tourist attractions,” Wheble said.
“With its refurbishment and repositioning, the mall will certainly be able to capture a larger share of the tourist market in Phnom Penh which will appeal to higher-end retailers,” Wheble said, noting that the entrance of Aeon Mall in June 2014 set a new retail benchmark for the Kingdom.
“The rebranding of the [Sorya] mall shows the vision and willingness of the landlord to adapt to the rapidly changing retail landscape in Phnom Penh,” he said.
According to Daniel Li, group CEO of Cambo-Sia International Co. Ltd., the country’s retail landscape has already been rapidly changing and Sorya Shopping Center was keen to compete with the higher standard of mall developments.
“Cambodia is changing quite rapidly,” he said.
“The location [of Sorya] is excellent. They can do a lot more in terms of attracting better brands and even getting better rental returns for the shareholders,” he said.
“I am convinced that Sorya is aware of the demands of [international brand tenants] and if they are serious in attracting official merchandise, they will need to do the needful.”
Li, who owns the exclusive distribution license for Hello Kitty merchandise – among other brands – which is offered at Aeon Mall, knows the requirements that malls need to set to attract international retail brands.
According to Li, most retail franchisers demand absolute certainty that no counterfeit brand items are sold in the same retail property where their licensed goods are also being sold at.
With many retail outlets looking to launch in the coming years, Li also said retail operators need to work together to protect their intellectual property within the vicinity.
Meanwhile, Li, who has seen an artist’s impression of what the new mall will look like following the revamp, is doubtful whether some of the lower-end retailers will fit the mall’s new look.
“Part of the revamp will be removing a majority of these [current] tenants because I think quite a number of them have their lease expiring, so they will not be renewing,” he said.
Yesterday, a 40-year old footwear seller operating in Sorya Shopping Center said she was taken aback by the announcement of renovation plans.
“That’s why the owner of the mall refused to renew our contract after two years,” she said, and added that she was hopeful that the mall will attract more customers after the renovation, while keeping to the current leasing prices.
The vendor said she is currently paying around $30 per square metre, and struggles to pay for her 20 square metre stall, as well as her staff’s salaries, all of which amount to about $1,000 a month.
Yesterday, the management team of Sorya Shopping Center declined to comment on the number of retail tenants that would leave the complex, and remained tight-lipped over the suggestion of rent price hikes.
According to Vann, the mall’s revamping efforts are not expected to disturb any businesses currently operating within the precinct.