Monday, October 02, 2006


The Star Sataurday 30th September 2006 edition carried a news and pictorial feature on Pekan Rabu, Johor Bahru.

Pekan Rabu modelled on the original Pekan Rabu in Alor Star was built in 2005 and is a three storey complex designed to mirror the Johor Malay architure. The 7577 sq m complex and built at a cost of RM 7 million has 116 stalls, an exhibition area and 200 parking lots. Pekan Rabu is under the charge of Pekan Rabu Corporation and the state Economic Planning Unit. It was built on a site that priviously housed a whole sale market and was planned as a one stop centre for bumiputras to sell a diverse range of goods among others such as salted fish, clothes, handicrafts and cakes.

A year on instead of bustling crowds, Pekan Rabu is practically eeriely silent, deserted and devoid of customers. Despite the incentive of the RM600 monthly rental being waived as well as the water and the electricity charges being waived, most traders prefer to keep their shops shut.

So what went wrong ? How could such a place with a 350,000 population within a 8KM radius and so close to commercial and residential area turn out to be a flop?

While it is commendable, that the state authorities have assisted the Malays who wish to venture into trading, but I believe it was wrong to turn PekanRabu into a 100% malay trading post. What was so difficult to let traders of all races trade there? Presently why would any Chinese and Indian flock to this place when they can buy all the Malay goodies elsewhere and shop somewhere else where it is more multi cultural.

Secondly, the location of Pekan Rabu is sandwiched between Giant Hypermarket on the right and left and also KIP Mart Tampoi. KIP Mart Tampoi is a bustling place where one can buy products ranging from Jamu to Keropok to Malay delicacies. Then there is the pull factor of a real multicultural atmosphere with Malay, Chinese and Indian stalls. Why bother then to go to Pekan Rabu. For handicrafts ? Well one can go to Danga bay which offers a greater and a variety of choices.

Thirdly, one wonders if the stall holders chosen are genuine business traders. For a complex to be successful, shops must remain open even during the slump. Traders have to support each other. Instead most traders in Pekan Rabu have "gulung tikar". Why not give up the shop instead of keeping the shop shut. It is only natural that when shops are kept shut and when that happens it has a knock on effect on the remaining shops which are open. There is no more shopping atmosphere. In any event, it must be noted that from the beginning, the shops in Pekan Rabu sold a mismatch of things which were hardly enticing to the shoppers. Maybe the Pekan Rabu Corporation and EPU should have been not only selective in n selecting the tenants and but also should have ensured the correct mix of business.

It is a shame that this place could not have been turned into a food paradise offering genuine Johor dishes. The location was perfect, good catchment area and more importantly it was also close for Singaporeans using the 2nd Link. Unfortunately the managers of Pekan Rabu sought to challenge Giant and KIP Mart.

What next for Pekan Rabu ? Judging from the statement by State Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development committee chairman Samat Ariffin who said that there were plans to intergrate an immigration department on the Pekan Rabu complex to help draw customers. He is quoted to have said that with the immigration department there the traders will be assured of customers as 1500 to 2000 people go to the department daily. Imagine 116 shops catering for 1500 customers. Each shop getting about 10 customers !

Unless some better idea can be thought of, Pekan Rabu has all the classics of yet another expensive folly.

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