In Chinese, a “tai tai” is a wealthy lady of leisure. Clara, lead protagonist in Singaporean film Gone Shopping, is a tai tai slap-bang in the middle of a mid-life crisis.
Were she Australian, Clara might have ditched her career as an events organiser, escaping to a health retreat in Ubud before becoming a yoga teacher. In Singapore, she moves into a shopping centre. The story, one of love and loss and breaking with convention, reveals the cultural differences between Australian and South East Asian shopping habits.
For investors in APN’s Asian REIT Fund, this is a cultural curiosity with financial implications. This difference is one of the reasons why the Fund has delivered average total returns of 14.84% a year since inception in July 20111 to 31 May 2017.
Australian investors wandering around their suburban mall might question Clara’s choice – why would one choose to spend more time than necessary in a sunless and confined space, with less than appealing food options? For shoppers in South East Asia, though, her decision makes perfect sense.
In Singapore, shopping malls are beautifully kept and thoughtfully designed, places of form as well as function, where families spend time together, teenagers socialise after school and colleagues gather for post-work drinks. When Clara escaped to the shopping centre she went in search of life, not as a retreat from it.
Australia’s most prominent, desirable centres – ones that form the cornerstone of APN’s AREIT Fund – lead the way in experiential shopping. Southeast Asian shopping centres, however, are in a class of their own, places where you can ski, take a silent yoga class or dance the night away. Show DC in Bangkok, for example, is a new-breed mall at the forefront of what the industry terms “retailtainment”.
The centre houses the world’s biggest Koreatown (for many Asians, Seoul is like Paris or London, at the forefront of haute couture and street culture) offering Korean street fashion, cosmetics, lifestyle products, groceries, cafes and restaurants owned by K-Pop artists. It also houses a 5,000 capacity live music concert hall, a modern sports arena and much more, including a facade featuring 2,600 sqm of LED advertising space visible to the 400,000 cars that pass it daily.