Shanghai is a city of entrepreneurship. In our series, 'Shanghai Entrepreneurs,' we talk to people from different backgrounds and businesses about their motivations, experiences and what they have learned along the way.
Echo Zhang is the General Manager of THE PLACE – an emerging shopping mall located in Hongqiao – and is in charge of operations, leasing, marketing and management. Having been in the commercial real estate industry for 18 years working for companies like CBRE Group, Jones Lang Laselle and Regus Business Centre, Zhang is a passionate businesswoman devoted to reshaping Shanghai’s shopping malls, starting with THE PLACE.
Elevator pitch: tell us what you do.
Currently I'm in charge of four commercial projects within THE PLACE, which is a 370,000sqm building comprising of three office buildings and a seven-floor retail shopping mall located in Hongqiao. In this position, I have overseen the mall opening and have been responsible for the entire project's overall performance, including leasing, marketing and mall operation.
What trends are shaping the way business is done here?
More shopping malls are sprouting up in smaller areas of Shanghai instead of old traditional commercial streets like Huaihai Lu or Nanjing Lu. Also, consumers’ habits are changing – they make more rational decisions and know clearly what they want; they are not blindly going after promotions or luxury brands anymore. Value is becoming more important to them. In addition, senior citizens have become a new heavy consumption group – they have time and money and know how to spend wisely.
What is the most challenging thing you have done for your business?
I like challenges and when I set a target, I don’t give up easily. When I decided that THE PLACE should open at the end of 2014, no one really believed it could happen in time. Our team put in a lot of effort and talked to various brands one by one to win their trust. We used to have only 8,000 customers per day after just opening, but now the customer flow has increased to 40,000-50,000 per day. The early days were a very difficult time for us but we managed to survive and everything is now on a much smoother path.
"One thing I’m proud of and stuck with over the years is being consistent"
What has your biggest success been?
I’m not sure it can be considered my biggest success, but one thing I’m proud of and stuck with over the years is being consistent. I’m proud that I’m so passionate about my job compared to when I first started my career, and I hope people can feel that when I meet them.
You have worked in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Which is
Shanghai for sure. The business environment is better, everyone is practical and people keep their promises here. It’s a relatively fair and transparent city in China and people do follow the rules and business practice. In Beijing people rely more on guanxi, while in Hong Kong the commercial structure is not as comprehensive and abundant as there are lots of monopolies.
Where do you see Shanghai’s shopping malls in five years?
In the next three to five years the structure is going to change and it’s important for each mall to find their own positioning. The shopping mall market is going to be more specific and there will be a big shuffle in the next three to five years – big and comprehensive malls with long-term purposes will merge with smaller ones and only those with strong capacity, professional management teams and creativity will remain competitive.
Visit www.the-place.com.cn to learn more about THE PLACE