Ikea Southeast Asia’s new Toppen Shopping Centre in Tebrau, a suburb of Malaysia’s Johor Bahru, is already more than 60 per cent tenanted as construction continues on what will become the new “heart and hub” of the border town.
Granted, that figure includes the giant Ikea store which has already been trading for several months, drawing customers from all over southern Malaysia and across the border from Singapore.
Tenants of the 1.1 million sqft complex already signed up include Australian furniture and electronics retailer Harvey Norman, cinema chain TGV and B.I.G (Big Independent Grocer), a gourmet supermarket which already anchors Ikea Southeast Asia’s IPC shopping centre, integrated with its Ikea Damansara store in Kuala Lumpur.
The Toppen Shopping Centre is on schedule to open by the third quarter of next year. It is next to Aeon Tebrau mall, described by Ikea Southeast Asia MD Christian Rojkjaer as a “friendly competitor” and home to Thai furniture and homewares rival Index Living Mall.
“Johor is home to 3.6 million potential consumers with fast-growing retail sales,” Rojkjaer told a media briefing at the site. “Johor’s economy is booming – growing faster than the rest of the nation. The mature community gives us the opportunity to create significant partnerships with both the community and business owners.”
The new centre will feature four floors of retailing, with a multi-purpose piazza-style rooftop including community garden, play areas, sports offerings, a cinema and al fresco eateries. It will be home to 300 tenants across all categories, including international brands and local specialty stores.
Ikea Southeast Asia owns and runs the brand’s stores in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and, from 2020, the Philippines. It is the only Ikea franchisee globally to be owned by the Kamprad family, which founded Ikea in Sweden.
As such, it is also the only Ikea business in Asia to own and run shopping malls, a formula that works in Europe where the company has about 50 centres anchored by giant Ikea stores. Its malls include Bangkok’s Mega Bangna and Kuala Lumpur’s MyTown and IPC Shopping Centre, which has just had a major refurbishment.
“Through our rich experience and deep understanding of market trends, Ikea’s presence normally contributes to an additional 20 per cent of footfall to our shopping centres,” says Ikea Southeast Asia shopping centre and mixed-use director Christian Olofsson.
“Toppen is not just another shopping centre – it is a space for the community to come together, a platform for business owners to grow, and a positive driver for Johor’s economic growth through the creation of job opportunities (an estimated 5000) and increased tourism.”
Rojkjaer expects that about 5 per cent of the Ikea Tebrau store’s sales will to be Singaporeans, who can take a short drive across the bridge border from their city state, where prices for many products are higher. But he is not concerned about prospective cannibalisation of the Singapore business’ sales. As if to underscore that point, last Easter holiday weekend the number of people heading to Malaysia by road caused traffic jams on the Singapore side of the border. Instead of the usual quick crossing, travellers were caught in queues for several hours.
Such is Johor Bahru’s rapid growth that even without cross-border traffic, both Ikea executives are bullish about the Malaysian city’s future.
“Every time we come here we see how things are developing,” said Rojkjaer. “Tebrau is going to be a major destination for years to come.”
Rojkjaer expects the centre to attract 15 million visitors in 2020, its first full year of trading.