Hong Kong/Shenzhen border mall revived

A Hong Kong/Shenzhen border mall is set to open in July after a two-year delay.

It is now targeting a patronage of 45 per cent from Hong Kong, 30 per cent from Mainland China and the rest tourists from other countries, says the man behind the project, import/export sector lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong.

It was originally aimed at attracting mainly tourists away from Hong Kong’s North District, where residents were not happy with the presence of mainland tourists and parallel traders.

In a complication, the lease for the plot of land housing the complex called The Boxes runs until only September next year while the mall want tenants to sign two-year contracts, up to 2019. The site is owned by Henderson Land Development and Sun Hung Kai Properties.

“Initially, we were naive to think it would be like putting up tents there as if organising a food festival at the harbourfront,” says Wong. “This was not the case. Many unforeseen issues have arisen … for example, we had to build a power plant to generate electricity.”

Wong came up with the idea several years ago to capitalise on the influx of mainland shoppers and traders who bought baby formula and other goods in Hong Kong and sold them across the border for a profit.

Mainland clampdown

Then in 2015, to deter parallel-goods traders, or “daigou” (shopping on other people’s behalf), the mainland authorities announced they would no longer let Shenzhen permanent residents make unlimited trips to Hong Kong, capping visits to once a week.

Mainland visitors dropped by 6.7 per cent from 2015 to only 427 million last year. The figure has rebounded with 108 million mainland visitors between January and March – up 3.8 per cent year-on-year.

On a 420,000 sqft (39,019 sqm) site in San Tin, Yuen Long, the 214 retail spaces – reserved for restaurants, boutiques, shops selling electronic appliances and others – are made of components that look like containers.

Even though no tenancy contracts have been signed yet, Wong says the mall has received more than 214 applications. The complex is expected to create about 2000 jobs.

Wong says he is confident the lease term will be extended. The mall will be run by Well Operation, which has secured a HK$120 million (US$15.4 million) bank loan. Its parent company, the San Tin Shopping City Foundation, of which Wong is a board member, is the guarantor.

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