Penang Mall-land? Pulau Plaza?


Looks like we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

More malls and plazas appear to be in the pipeline for Penang, if the lowyat website is any indication. (Click on the right of each link in the website to view the images.)

I know they look pretty futuristic and canggih and all that, but seriously folks, don’t you think it’s one mall (or two or three malls) too many? Especially when you consider that the people’s purchasing power is not exactly soaring and the population on the island is around 700000.

And a response from blog reader Sean:

No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. Penang needs places like this to reverse the brain drain. How to suck brains if they don’t have anything better to do when they come to stay in Penang? My local brand-new supermarket is so full of people with nothing better to do, standing around in the aisles enjoying the aircon, that it’s almost impossible to do any actual shopping there. It is packed with people day and night, even though never more than one third of the tills are open, there are are very rarely ever queues at the tills and nobody ever buys more than 8 items.

Penang must build these malls because there is simply nothing better to do. As long as the mall-owners can guarantee that Penang (and the rest of Malaysia) offers nothing better to do, sure got people standing around not buying anything to make the place look busy one!

I think your unwarranted, baseless and selfish attack is tantamount to an assault causing grievous pecuniary harm Anil. Why always like that, trying to take away honest, hard-working men’s dreams? Got nothing better to do is it? Go stand in the aisles in my supermarket to cool off like everyone else lah!

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I think Balik Pulau needs a shopping mall.



Tired of pasar malam?


When it comes to free market,too many malls or not is not a big issue, whether they will flourish or become an eyesore in the future. BUT there are question about the social impact and environmental impact these malls exert on the people, are we expecting an even more materialistic society in the future? Indeed I agree that people have no where else to go in the weekends except shopping mall is because there is lack of public space for the people for social gatherings.Is there much open space in Balik Pulau, or Batu Maung,site for the so called Southbay… Read more »


L has failed to see the finer merits of shopping mall:

1) Free weekend promotion or roadshow usually held at the foyer or lobby area of shopping malls.

2) Free air-cond to escape the heat (and the charges from Tenaga for use of my air cond at home).

3) Free browsing of books at bookstore

4) ‘Bird watching’ at the fashiionistas at the mall.

5) A good place to meet friends over a cup of coffee.


I have no objection to private enterprise although I would prefer those shopping malls to be standalones located away from population centres (like Queensbay mall) for better traffic dispersal.


Just look at Penang island, residential houses are sandwiched by shop-houses so much so that these residential homes are ‘converted’ into a commercial office or retail store/food stall. Mixed clusters of residential homes and commercial centres are so typical in Penang so much so that I began to question if there is any proper town planning at all. So it is not surprising that a shopping mall may be erected int he middle of residential taman.


Yes, I agree with you that residential roads are being converted to main thoroughfares and with that, there is no longer any moral authority for the council to stop residential house owners from applying to convert those houses facing noisy main roads to business premises.


Who cares if old shopping complexes/mall are closed because their customers are diverted to the newer ones?

We as consumers need choices to be pampered.
If the old ones cannot innovate to retain/attract customer flow, then it deserve to be closed down. Competition brings innovation, and ultimately we customers will benefit.

There is no sure-win strategy if you keep on to ‘Same Old Way’ and refuse to change to suit the changing taste of consumers who have become more sophisticated these days.


I am a Penangite (Penang born) but since the early 90s (coincided with the time after Lim Chong Eu’s bade farewell to Penang politics) i have lived in overseas (work reasons) and occasionally return to Penang to see our changes good n also ***. My observation is that Penangites typically have strong pride and always believe Penang offers the best in northern malaysia at least. However, we have become too complacent thinking we have made good progress since the 90’s. The benchmark should not be vs the neighboring states but vs regional capitals (include our own KL, Bangkok or Singapore).… Read more »


We cannot blame most older penangites after the damage done in the gerakan era that neglected development, as people has failed to benchmark against the best the region can offer. Now in the ‘everyone can fly’ era, the young ones having witnessed the world, are demanding change in every aspect to fiulfill the lost dream of a modern city. I see nothing wrong with more malls in Penang as the market forces will come in place to rid those inefficient and customer-unfriendly ones for the benefit of the consumers. It will make the retailers more sensitive to the needs of… Read more »


I am actually more worried with the empty malls that scatter around. Bukit Jambul Mall is the loitering ground of foreign workers, 1-Stop and Island plaza are near-dead. Even newer Times Square and Ist Avenue are only partially filled. The only two malls that stood out are Queensbay and Gurney Plaza (cleverly acquired by CapitalLand of Singapore but pretty much the replica of the malls in Singapore). It is funny to see even restaurants in Gurvey Plaza are the same as those in Spore, e.g. The Breez, Pastamania, Sakae Sushi, Fish & Co, Seoul Garden etc. I admire these mall… Read more »

Economics Maestro

Capitalland of Spore effectively running two most frequented malls in Penang ? Where’s our local talents ? May be our local talents are working in Spore and returning to penang to manage QBay & Gurney Plaza & earning S$ in returns ? Where’s our Msia’s TalentCorp doing ? How to reverse brain drain ini macam ?


Those Singapore companies have better estate management experience. Just look at how well they have manage Gurney Plaza and Queesnbay. It would be a waste if the ‘knowledge transfer’ is not benefiting the local Penangites to buck up their poorly-managed shopping complexes.

Dalbinder Singh Gill

Developers are obsessed with Ringgit. Even the Green Campaign has become a Ringgit thing. Anil, you have my full support. Roads are choked in Penang. Agreements made with developers without transparency.

Y C Yap

We should blame the poor transportation policy and our NAP for the traffic jam, not the mall developer. If we have good and reliable public transport, fewer people will drive to the mall.

DAP joining BN?

When people go shopping at Macy at the 52nd street in NYC, they took subway.

When we have to go to Tesco, and I mean, any Tesco in Malaysia, we drive.

Gerakan out of BN?

we ride bicycles to tesco very soon bcoz ron95 going to be expensive as ron97 under barang naik regime ?


Pahang has a lot of parks. Try earning a living there.


Are you implying Penang has less green areas than Singapore and London? Penang National Park alone is close to 10% of the island.


The point is I dont see any data showing we have less parks now. Maybe because not all parks are named thus your are not aware.

Y C Yap

Even if you have a park within the city centre in Penang, can you guarantee that it is well maintain to be clean and safe for the locals?

I rather have a shopping mall, at least the toilet could be cleaner that those tandas awam in the park.


A typical example of unkemp park in Malaysia:

Give me an air-cond mall in my vicinity anytime!


many i times i don’t agree with NGOs and Anil on many an issue, but this is one time i think Pg has 1 mall too many. I believe Pg has too many malls for the following reasons 1) we can hv glitzy shopping malls with branded designer goods, but question is this – how does this helps to bring down inflation for the man on the streets. are the malls selling toilet paper, breakfast cereals, oranges cheaper or are they selling LV handbags? if the likes of Walmarts / Tesco -> yes as they make goods more accessible and… Read more »

Char Siew

smaller private businesses (eg sundry & coffee shops) should be innovative to form own “koperasi” (i don’t mean the traditional BN way) to have efficient and effective supply chain in order to stay competitive and to fend off bigger sharks operating in the malls. otherwise, we will be seeing demise of traditional “non-slippery clean” as mentioned by tunglang in years to come. smaller private biz still can operate and attract neighborhood customers who have traditional mindset (eg tunglang’s) who dislike air-con and more expensive environment or hectic traffic leading to the malls. A good example is people around Dato Kramat… Read more »


When people spend in a mall, money gets circulated and we get multiplier effect! Good for economy!

Sze Tho Weng Ho

Hi guys,
I agree with Moo-T. This is a simple case of fair enterprise. If all proper by-laws and regulations are complied with, whats the problem? Who are you to judge and whine about too many malls or malls not being fully occupied? I seriously think this sort of complaints are getting ahead of themselves. I you don’t like mall, don’t go. Stay home or do something else.
Every business endeavour has its risks. There are bound to be some failures whilst others prosper. Ultimately, it is the public and consumers who will determine their fate.


Anil, traffic problems, heat island effect,etc problem introduce by a malls, are not the factors that decide whether there is too many malls. Indeed, it is all about urban planning. When one looks into urban planning, they will hit the a huge obstacle : municipal councils that runs on autopilot. Municipal councils member are not elected by the people, and the so call “public servants” does not account for any mess they introduce to the local affairs, thanks to BN, all municipal councils “government servants” only answer to the federal government. It is true that building more mall doesn’t contradict… Read more »


Some of the comments doesn’t surprise me, it just show that many Malaysian still suck inside the nanny state mindset, retreat all the rights and stuffing everything to government. People always looking for easy exit rather than tackle root of the problem. In the first place, I must ask Anil, what is the meaning of “too many malls”? Since tax payer doesn’t fund and build those shopping mall, and no law is broken (e.g. destroy heritage building, illegal cheap land transfer through bribery , political bribery getting cheap land ) , then it is up to the mall builder and… Read more »

Jazzy Nathan

ehen gurney paragon opens, some of present major tenants of gurney plaza (old n new wing) will move over there to keep their brand prestige. otherwise, we (may have) duplicates (or similar brands) such as McDonald (or Burger King), KFC (or Martbrown), Kim Garry (or Wong Kok), MPH (or Borders), Wah Chan (or Tomei jewelry), Selangor Pewter (or Temasek pewter), Old Town coffee (or White House coffee), and the list goes on.

it’s so predictable. just go to KL/PJ/Damansara and you get the picture.


so tunglang who dislikes Kim gary has option to dine at Wong Kok when Gurney Paragon opens?

Macho Man

this means the money earned (some called it multipier effect) will mostly confined to selected few conglomerates/frachise owned by elite groups and the rich gets richer. don’t u agree with that ?


More malls – mall branded items on the shelves to entice the lifestyle craze to the exent that young girls are turning to GRO lure to be paid handsomely for rich returns with few hours of ”pleasure act” then able to shop !
In future cheeko penangites don’t have to travel to hadyai or golok as local GROs aplenty !

Core Competency

Oh what an insult to all women !!

Just because there are malls, and just because there are fancy stuffs on the shelf girls will in turn go sell their bodies to satisfy their urge to shop MORE MORE MORE !

Anil, I think your blog should offer an apology to all the females in the world for carrying such kind of messages.

Pure Core Facts

we can’t run away from ugly facts.

with due respect to ladies, even young dudes also turn models turn part-time moonlighters to afford in-things like iPad (i meant not the black one but white version which is the latest !). Ever read about Kuta Cowboys in Bali ? We might have that in Feringgi one day !

i hope we stop being naive.

I am a parent to 2 young children and I constantly remind them the true virtues of life and not being swayed by marketing blitz invading our minds constantly !

Macho Man

(one) man swapped one of his kidney for an iPad2 ! This is a fact. Extreme commercialism can sink your common sense !


I think what’s missing from this discussion is an acknowledgement that ‘market forces’ vary from place to place. In some markets the consumer holds all the power and retailers must compete to attract their custom. Malaysia is not one of those markets at all. I believe in Malaysia it is the establishment that holds all the power by virtue of having unfettered access to unusually enormous natural and mineral wealth. In such a ‘market’, the businesses must compete with each other for gratuities from the establishment – the attention of the consumer is as secondary as their spending power is… Read more »

Y C Yap

Please do not forget that very often we have attracted tourists who come to enjoy our natural environment and hospitality BUT NEVER SPEND to help our economy.

You prefer the ang-moh tourist to sun-bath at Batu Feringghi or spending their money at Gurney Plaza?

Let’s get real.


Then let us ‘get real’. Tourists typically leave home with a budget, they convert their budget to the foreign currency and they spend it down to loose change while they’re at their destination. If a destination gets a tourist, they generally get all the tourist’s ‘holiday money’ in some way or another. Perhaps the only exception is perhaps if the tourist notices she’s being cynically milked and attempts to resist. I suspect your problem with beach / nature holidays is that they don’t fence the cows into your affiliated milking parlours and you would rather burn the farm than allow… Read more »


I am sorry to hear your comment as probably Penang has failed to attract high rollers tourists who can spend. We get those cheapskate back-packers who squeeze evey sen out of the ringgit they have got from the money changer.

Why syiok sendiri to become a must-visit island when we attract those stingy tourists who are thrifty in every sense and sen while basking in the good sunshine of Penang with little significance to the economic multiplier effect at all.


This is development and should be allowed provided proper planning is done and analyzed such as the access to the place and peripheral infrastructure etc requirements.

It would be quite socialistic view to stop such development, Penang must become like Singapore, a capitalist society, to survive as it lacks land etc

My two cents worth

David Gee

Totally agree that we have one mall too many! What Penang need is more green lungs, promote sustainable living and more civic minded rakyat.


I rather have an air-cond shopping mall within walking distance from my home than a so-called ‘green lung’.

Why? Because I have yet to see a proper ‘green lung’ that is properly maintained as unkempt lalang, damaged playground, waterlogged drain/field (mosquito breeding ground) are common sights. Such places are usually rubbish dumping area with foul stench.

I rather do my exercise walking cum window shopping in an air-cond shooping mall,away from the heat of the burning hot sun.

Give me a shopping mall anytime. I can shop fo grocery in just-in-time mode, visit my doctor without having to drive.


“My Penang, My Empty Mall”


See you at pasar malam!

tan, tanjung bungah

Hi everyone,

Feasibility studies on opening of malls/shopping complexes by private enterprises would have been conducted by the entrepreneurs – failure to do so would be an unacceptable risk as it involves millions! The authorities need to consider traffic disposal measures are in place by the malls/shopping complexes before any approval is granted for their setting-up and/or opening. Otherwise, don’t approve!

So, let’s just let market forces determine the number of malls/shopping complexes and its success/failure to sustain their business!


Look at multi million shopping complex at straits quay.. also empty..


Places like Straits Quay are positioned for few but high spending customers. It is exclusive in nature for the rich to shop in peace without the crowd.

If you like places throng with people but little volume of ringgit transaction, then try pasar malam instead.

I see that many old-timer Penangites are still living in the good old days mentality. No need to travel far to open your eyes, just go visit KL (KLCC or Pavilion) and see for yourself.


These “Monuments” are rich people playgrounds. Everything must have a proper guideline. Malls and similar should only be built on demand and the existing population plus annual tourists visiting the island. Asian mentality, no proper planning…rise with the tide and collapse with the financial meltdown!


The only ‘monument’ that wasted rakyat money is that Tugu 1Malaysia that serves no purpose.


No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. Penang needs places like this to reverse the brain drain. How to suck brains if they don’t have anything better to do when they come to stay in Penang? My local brand-new supermarket is so full of people with nothing better to do, standing around in the aisles enjoying the aircon, that it’s almost impossible to do any actual shopping there. It is packed with people day and night, even though never more than one third of the tills are open, there are are very rarely ever queues at the tills and nobody… Read more »


Good malls will organize special events at their foyers that are paid for by companies promoting their services/products. This in turn attracts good crowds – beneficial to both parties.

We are living in free market/open economy. More malls will give more options to consumers (better price or free air-cond even for windw shopping). Those old complexes that fail to evolve with time to attract the more demanding crowds will eventually die out.

With more shopping options, Penang will also attract more tourists.
So I see nothing wrong with that.

Andrew I

Ya lah. This is what is meant by changing your lifestyle, mah. Why pay to cool off at home when you can do it for free in the mall? New mall also got clean toilets now and will remain so until the next mall comes up. Somemore got hot chicks to look at to keep you from freezing, like when Queensbay first started…felt like the North Pole. Got food stall selling cheap food and if you feel like showing off, you can sit al fresco INDOORS with your laptop and sunglasses on.


Most of these will be a white elephant by the looks of it.
Currently 1st Avenue Mall and Penang Times Square are only partially occupied. So is the Queenbay Mall and the dying 1stopMidland. And needless to mention is the always-near-empty Island plaza.

Once (some of) these developers go bankrupt, the market itself will determine the amount of malls in Penang. Some of the mall in the pipeline will not be even realised!


developers can be creative : for example, 1stopmidland can soon be converted into service apartments (cater for booming medical tourism especially with Adventist Hospital just across the road). island plaza can be turned into office block to cater for potential rich overseas people (those who treat penang as 2nd resort home) mutual fund management firms. TimesSquare : the only way to revive it is to have “cool” linkway from Komtar/IstAve/Prangin Mall. Prior to that, the shophouses betwenn Times Square & Komtar along Kramat Road must turned into “hip” spots …. my prediction : massive $$$ invesrment which is feasible but… Read more »

Dato Kramat Old Timers

ha ha ha
Ivory Properties already laughing to the banks once it;s get listed ! Only suckers like me are left behind to lick the investment wounds thinking Times Square is a good investment. Really sakit hati.

Y C Yap

Creative solutions is needed among th Penangites.
No need to be pessimistic.

If the developer of mall went bankrupt, CapitalMall Trust (may be) ready to buy it up.


All these proposal appears to me like private initiatives. Why do you think these businessmen/companies are doing this? Please share your thoughts contrasted with the concerns you have raised.




The more the better for consumers like us.
We want competition among retailers to counter the effect of Barang Naik!


Follow the free economy spirit, I don’t see any problem with it. As long as Penang state government make sure they can put the land for good use and collect assessment tax from it, why bother?

On the other hand, there is tons of lesson to be learn around Malaysia about Shopping mall bubble burst and local municipal not getting a dime from the assessment tax. Tax payer are yet to know whether all these busted developer really pay the infrastructure layout bills.

I always wonder, who is funding the electricity, water and road connections for all these properties.


Very bad idea…some will end up like 1-Stop like in Pulau Tikus (empty), while the smaller ones will become like Gembira Parade in Greenlane (also empty)


Consumers are smart to go for bargain buy.
Those retailers that cannot innovate for differentiation or give good value to customers will perish.
Competition among retailers is good for consumers in the Barang Naik era we are in right now.
With electricity price hike, we can also lepak in the air-cond mall to save our eletricity cost at home.

Soo Huat

just look at Penang Road & Campbell Street vendors – selling almost more or less the same stuff the past 30 years.
Be creative to capture the fansy of tourists (domestic & foreign) otherwise stop complaining no customers and always ask for cheaper rentals which is getting impossible in barang naik era at least as of this moment.

Y C Yap

I am all for open market and competition. Otherwise, there is no incentive for retailers to innovate and bring value to the customers. Singapore has so many shopping malls – they constantly upgrade and rennovate to retain and attract customer base. Nobody is complaining as tourists are coming in droves. Some malls even provide free shuttle service for the consumers – that’s good news, right? If you look at Suntec City in Singapore, they even have a little garden with koi pond, besides the water fountain that bring good feng shui. That’s innovative! The young generation in Penang has developed… Read more »

Andrew I

You mean the Dutch one which changed the Y.M.C.A. song to T.O.P.S. Used to make my hair stand on end when they played it.

Again, beaten by the Brits. Also, remember the very strange burning down of of their branch in the old ferry terminal in Butterworth, the last of the mohicans before they completely disappeared from the radar?

Could call it the battle of the supermarket colonialists.

Core Competency

Awww, Anil. Stop being naughty. Stop trying to scare the Penang folks with your scary tales. So what if Penang turns into a big shopping mall? Does that make Penang a “badder” place to stay? Perhaps you are not a Penangite, Anil. You just do not understand Penang. Penang was a shopper’s paradise, that is, until M took away Penang’s free port status. Why can’t Penang regain the reputation of being a shopper’s paradise, Anil? What is wrong with that? Just because you do not like to shop does not mean others can not go shopping. Just because you left-leaning… Read more »