The Matter with Mara Digital Mall

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KR1M is “temporarily closing” and Mara Digital Mall is losing its shine – six and two years after opening, respectively – both government-mooted initiatives.

Launched in December 2015 and known then as “Low Yat 2” before it was rebranded, Mara Digital Mall was proposed by the Rural and Regional Development Ministry after a much-publicised brawl at Low Yat in July 2015 involving a youth stealing a smartphone from a shop.

Unlike Low Yat Plaza, Mara Digital Mall caters specifically to Bumiputera entrepreneurs and is aimed at assisting them in breaking through the ICT market monopolised by Low Yat.

Less than two years on, it is said to be struggling with declining sales and number of customers despite its strategic location near Sogo Mall and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Kuala Lumpur.

“Retailers are seeing a decline in sales after over a year of operation due to the lack of product variation, competitive prices and slow publicity,” Acer Inc Concept Store manager Faizal Johari told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.

Faizal, who was a trader at Low Yat Plaza, said his business was pretty good for the first four months.

“After that, the customers returned to Low Yat,” he said.

TMR reported that Faizal claimed traders at Mara Digital Mall could not compete with those at Low Yat Plaza, who sold their products at lower prices.

“For instance, if we sell a laptop for RM1,700, buyers can get the same laptop at Low Yat for RM1,500. Not only do they have competitive prices, product availability and variation are also higher,” he said.

A survey by TMR found that most products sold at Mara Digital Mall are between 10% and 12% more expensive than those at Low Yat Plaza.

“We can sell at cheaper price if we have high volume, but that is impossible without visibility. We can’t even lower our prices because we are required to get our supplies from a sole vendor. 

 “If we are given the freedom to choose our suppliers, we might be able to lower our prices,” Faizal was quoted as saying.

Currently, retailers at Mara Digital Mall are required to buy only from WGN Scan Sdn Bhd and any purchases from other dealers must be declared with a 1.5% charge per item. Traders who fail to do so face a RM500 summons.

This is not the first time concerns have been raised over these issues, according to FMT news portal.

Apparently, in December last year, retailers said they were worried that the inability of the sole supplier to ensure a constant supply of IT products would affect consumer confidence.

In the report, retailer Mohamad Fadzly Rahmat was quoted as saying, “If we don’t have the items, then people will not be satisfied with the service here. Mara Digital Mall is an IT centre not a ‘pasar malam’ (night market).”

He added that his customers grumbled each time they were given the “no stock” excuse.

Despite the traders’ grouses, WGN Scan branch GM’s secretary Muhammad Fauzan Sabirin claimed that the total sales at the mall would amount up to between RM200,000 and RM400,000 weekly, TMR reported.

Fauzan said that their marketing team is doing their best to increase visibility through social media and events. Its official Facebook, ‘Mara Digital Kuala Lumpur’, currently has 5,422 followers.

Some of the events organised this year were gaming tournaments and the Oppo Electronics fair in June, with the Acer fair coming up in October.

Fauzan said the traffic comparison between the two malls is unfair.

“Low Yat has been established years ago, while we will be celebrating our second anniversary this December,” he said.

It appears that one outlet that seems to be faring better than the others is accessories shop Ustaz, which is said to attract an average of more than 200 patrons a day.

The store is not bound to purchasing products from WGN due to its speciality which is not covered by the supplier.

According to a company staff, most of their sales are phone cases and USB cables and they are able to offer low prices as the goods are imported from China.