Diverse offerings: Physical retailers trial multiple models to compete for a piece of the burgeoning retail market


As Myanmar’s economy continues to expand, with GDP growth forecast at over 6% in 2019 and 2020, the country’s young urban population benefits from increasing opportunities to sample new food, beverage and entertainment options, particularly as incomes and leisure times rise. Furthermore, the government’s move to open wholesale and retail markets to 100% foreign ownership is expected to accelerate the entrance of overseas brands, and promote consolidation in the country’s highly fragmented retail sector. According to real estate service provider Colliers, a steady stream of new foreign food and beverage brands in Yangon are helping to sustain retail occupancy at 90%. Meanwhile, a growing number of integrated retail complexes, with housing, shops, supermarkets, restaurants and entertainment facilities, are proving successful in major cities.

Lifestyle Offerings

The burgeoning domestic film industry is driving strong interest in cinema. In 2018 Myanmar hosted 1.3m movie-goers across 120 theatres, with 20 more scheduled to open. However, only 11 theatres are located close to or inside of shopping malls. Pairing these creates an opportunity for developers to make spaces where people can eat, shop and catch a movie all at once. Moreover, physical retailers will soon be in competition with Myanmar’s rapidly expanding e-commerce platforms. By differentiating their offerings, they can make a trip to the mall a desirable lifestyle choice and effectively compete with online retailers.

Yangon’s new Kanthayar Centre near Kandawgyi Lake effectively embodies this concept. It hosts a cinema, supermarket, banks, shops, cafes and restaurants, including a growing number of foreign chains. In addition, it contains a gymnasium and amusement centre. Furthermore, the development includes serviced apartments nearby, driving foot traffic at the centre’s bustling Market Place supermarket.

Meanwhile, Junction Centre Group, part of the Shwe Taung conglomerate, has potential to build on the success of its six malls in Yangon. According to Tony Picon, executive director of Picon-Deed Property Consultants, this is demonstrated by the 100%-occupied Junction City Mall. “The market is underserved in the Yangon periphery, where developments like Capital Hypermarket Thaketa, which has a cinema, department store and supermarket, are really busy,” he told OBG.

The retail-entertainment model has a number of ancillary benefits, including the option to develop digital reward schemes across a concentrated pool of retailers. Yangon-based Nexlabs, a digital transformation specialist, helped one cinema client introduce a booking app that integrates point-of-sale systems with iOS and Android, enabling the client to incentivise app bookings. “We saw a huge spike,” U Hein Win Toe, CTO of Nexlabs, told OBG. “We opened bookings well ahead of the movie release date – which had not been possible before – and sold out.” Colliers expects retailers to focus more attention on developing their digital reward schemes going forward.

Mandalay Potential

Developments in Mandalay such as Ocean Super Centre, Mandalay Yatanar Mall and the recently opened Central Point demonstrate that mixing retail and entertainment through integrated cinemas has appeal beyond Myanmar’s commercial capital. However, although Central Point opened in the inner city in the third quarter of 2018 – and Mandalay Commercial Complex is primed for completion at the end of 2020 – similar retail complexes have yet to make it to the suburbs. “To entice more footfall in Mandalay, developers will need to target families by introducing lifestyle-oriented centres, integrating facilities for leisure and entertainment. These can include modern value-added elements such as playgrounds, gaming arcades, theme parks, wellness centres and cinemas,” Colliers said. In secondary markets that do not have the spending power to sustain megamalls like Junction City, the Ocean Super Centre model of hybrid hypermarkets – which integrate retail, and food and beverage – is proving highly successful, according to Picon-Deed.