When big is too big for shopping centres

Chengdu is China’s fourth largest city with 14 million people. Chengdu is now home to the world’s largest single structure – a shopping mall called New Century Global Centre.

To provide some idea of scale, New Century Global Centre is the size of:

  • 329 football fields.
  • 20 Sydney Opera Houses.
  • Three Pentagons.

Its floor space is 1.9 million square metres, or more than 20 million square feet. It beats any other building in the world for floor space. It has a hotel, an Imax theatre, an aquarium and a water park with a beach and 1000 feet of coastline. To appreciate the splendour of this structure, take a few minutes to view the footage.

Anyone who has had the misfortune to visit The Mall of America will know just how big it really is. To imagine a mall four times that size, which the New Century Global Centre is, is hard to comprehend.

And according to Wikipedia, The Mall of America is number 31 in size in the world – presumably now number 32! Chadstone in Melbourne is number 72 on the list with a tiny 185,000 square metres (two million square feet).

This is what it looks like graphically:

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 9.55.56 am

So when is big, too big? One totally unscientific measure says that when people have bumper stickers pasted on their cars saying, for example, “I hate Sandton City” you know the developers have stretched things. Sandton City is a shopping mall in Johannesburg with 215,000 square meters – a bit bigger than Chadstone.

A shopping centre should be a one-stop shop. If it is too big, such that it is onerous to visit a shop either side of the mall, people start to avoid the shopping centre. Remember, it is not only the walking in the mall. It is the parking and the distance you need to walk to get from your car to the entrance.

I recall that The Mall of America has a small train that carries people around the centre. A dead giveaway that big is too big.
From a curiosity viewpoint, I would visit the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu – but once only. And only if I had a Segway and knew how to drive it.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing www.impactretailing.com.au and can be contacted at [email protected] or 0414 631 702


1 comment

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    Michael Baker posted on July 23, 2016

    Like the author, this isn't a place where I personally want to spend a lot of time, or any time at all. And Chengdu may just be competing with other Chinese cities for bragging rights by having a mall that's bigger than anyone else's. But you have to remember the context. This isn't Minneapolis and it isn't Melbourne - it's Chengdu. What else is there to do in Chengdu? If a place like this provides people with a social and recreational escape they can't get somewhere else then who are we to judge? But how well is this mall leased? 100%? 70%? That's another clue about whether the mall is too big. I recall South China Mall, in Dongguan, which at its 'opening' in around 2004 was the world's largest mall. But it was less than 30% leased. It was a ghost town from the get-go, a shocking poster child for the penchant in the PRC for building malls on a ridiculous scale without regard to economics.

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