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A new star on Bintang Walk

   
(From left) Francis Yeoh; Kuala Lumpur Datuk Bandar, Datuk Ruslin Hasan; and YTL Corp executive chairman Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay cut the ribbon at the opening of Starhill Gallery.

Sunday Mail, 14 August 2005

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With the opening of Starhill Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, most of the world’s iconic luxury brands are available under one roof, writes Baidura Ahmad

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SOME members of the media have touted the Starhill Gallery as a Palace of Infinite Indulgence. For some, this sounds like Heaven on Earth, which we do not claim to have created here, and for others it smacks of Hell, which we do not want to be associated with at all," joked Tan Sri Francis Yeoh.

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The managing director of YTL Corp Bhd, which owns a number of upmarket properties along Bintang Walk, Kuala Lumpur, including Starhill Gallery, was speaking at the official opening of the much-talked-about shopping centre recently.

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Starhill Gallery has received a lot of publicity, especially from the British dailies; after it was reported that Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife, Cherie, was scheduled to do the honours during a private visit here. It was one of these dailies which coined the term "Palace of Infinite Indulgence" when describing the shopping centre.

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Many who have stepped into the stylishly upgraded shopping attraction see it as a place that is heavenly pleasing to the five senses.

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Designers and artisans from around the world were commissioned to make sure that the place lived up to its "A Gallery of Rich Experiences" slogan. The David Rockwell Group from New York (famed for their work for Nobu restaurant and the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles) and many other iconic mall designers from around the world were engaged to give the new Starhill Gallery a facelift.

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YTL also engaged the renowned branding guru, Interbrand, to reposition Starhill. It was Interbrand which turned dowdy Selfridges in London into an exciting shopping destination and increased their sales dramatically.

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"We knew from the outset that we would not commoditise passion and craftsmanship. It is clearer now why we named the floors the way we did, Muse, instead of Art, Adorn instead of Jewellery, Indulge instead of Leather Goods and Handbags, Feast Village instead of food and beverages, and Pamper instead of cosmetics and spa treatments," Yeoh told the crowd of corporate figures, international and local celebrities, and the media who attended the opening, about two weeks ago.

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He wasn't kidding. The Pamper Floor, at about 4,600 square metres, is twice the size of the world-renowned Harrods Urban Spa Retreat in London. Already, it has attracted many well-heeled Malaysians and guests of the adjacent JW Marriott Hotel.

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Its watch retail space, at about 1,800 square metres, is said to be the largest fine watch retailers in the world. It offers 70 luxury brands. Starhill Gallery houses Jaeger Le-Coultre's largest stand-alone watch boutique in the world, which was set up at a cost of RM2 million.

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Other watch brands that have their largest stand-alone boutiques in the world in Starhill Gallery include Audemars Piguet and Ulysse Nardin of Switzerland, Graham of London and famed jeweller of Paris, Korloff, which carries the world's largest diamond.


   
The David Rockwell Group from New York and many other iconic mall designers from around the world were engaged to give Starhill Gallery a facelift.

The Feast Village comprises 13 upscale restaurants offering 1,000 seats of fine dining. It draws quality traffic and the sales since its soft opening have exceeded expectations. On an annualised basis, the restaurants can now expect to gross RM50 million.

 

Indeed, looking at the list of tenants at Starhill Gallery, you can almost conjure up a picture of the patron – clothed in Kenzo, DKNY or Anne Klein, a Givenchy on the arm and Louis Vuitton on the feet. And if it is local designers that they go for, it will probably be something from Jendela Batik or Rizalman Ibrahim.

 

Yeoh said that when YTL took over the Marriott, Starhill Centre and the adjacent Lot 10 Shopping Centre, in Bukit Bintang, in 1999, the area was slowly turning into a high-crime red light district. YTL then sought Government approval to create Bintang Walk to prevent further deterioration, and the Government and City Hall responded quickly and positively.

 

YTL replaced the low-market food court at Starhill Centre with a modern 400-seat food court in Lot 10. The strategy obviously worked, as the food court has served over four million meals since its opening.

 

With the improved traffic from Bintang Walk, Lot 10's anchor tenant, Isetan, reinvested heavily in its supermarket adjacent to the food court. It further increased its investment by upgrading the whole store.

 

"The traffic in Bintang Walk is improving in both quantity and quality, judging from the latest surge in rental rates and rental enquiries in both Lot 10 and Starhill on Bintang Walk. Millions of KLites, Malaysians and travellers have enjoyed the environment in Bintang Walk since its creation by YTL in 2000," adds Yeoh.

 

In 1999, the only duty free items available were watches and cameras and the management of YTL noted that these tenants were the only ones paying high rental rates and paying on time. Other retail goods were attracting duties as high as 40 per cent.

 

Once again, YTL approached the Government to reduce duties on other items, which the Government promptly did in a record four months. With branded goods free of duty, retailers from around the region and the world began to take notice and started to reinvest in retailing in Kuala Lumpur.

 

"As opposed to competing retail centres in Singapore and Hong Kong, which have a decades-long head start, we are only five years old in serious retailing. Despite this, Lot 10 and Starhill Gallery have done very well to attract regional and global retail principals," said Yeoh.

 

Based on his experience, Yeoh said that more and more retail principals no longer rely on agents to retail their global brands. They have bought back many franchises from their agents. This was done because in the past agents have not promoted their brands, and therefore their sales, because of the lack of experience and the lack of budget.

 

At Starhill Gallery, global principal retailer, the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy Group (LVMH) has invested RM20 million in its new concept store, backing the vision of the repositioning of Starhill Gallery. LVMH has all its brands exclusive to Starhill Gallery. These include Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Fendi, Loewe and Celine.

 

"The LVMH Group are excited with our vision and strategy, and have convinced other global brands to open stores in Starhill Gallery. These include Valentino, Hermes and many others," said Yeoh.

 

The non-LVMH Group brands that are available only at Starhill Gallery include Porsche Design, Asprey, Garrard, DKNY, Mulberry, Valentino, Lanvin, Lancel, Brioni, Jim Thompson, Bang & Olufsen, Alessi and TUMI and Kwanpen. In discussion are Longchamp and many others who are prepared to retail exclusively at Starhill Gallery.

 

"Starhill Gallery has benefited from the high-end traffic as a result of these iconic global brands' availability only in Starhill.

 

"Starhill Gallery is so attractive a shopping centre that many global brands have decided to fast-track their investments in Kuala Lumpur, instead of in neighbouring shopping centres in one way or another," said Yeoh.

 

"I can judge from the huge response, from both Malaysians and travellers from around the world, that Starhill Gallery has already gained a unique personality of its own. It takes much time, passion and patience to appreciate someone's true personality.

 

"This is the reason that Starhill Gallery has been unveiled act by act like a good play, saving the best for last. The opening marks the end of this first play and I am very sure there are many more exciting episodes to follow," said Yeoh.


Starhill reopens

Sunday Mail, 14 Aug 2005


   
From left: Rainer & Brigitte Althoff; Yasmin Yusuff & Amarjit Chhina; and Mohyiddin Al-Halabi & Shereen Abdullah.

Starhill Gallery, formerly known as Starhill Shopping Centre, is now open for business after an extensive refurbishment that has brought the place a few notches upmarket.

Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Ruslin Hassan did the honour of cutting the ribbon to mark the occasion with owner YTL Corporation Bhd managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh.


   
From left: Lorraine Hahn & Chef Wan; Datin Mastisa Mohamed, Kathy Lam, Datin Bjoerg & Datuk Frank Steinleitner; Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir; Bruce and Sally Cleghorn.

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