Country's first ultra-premium supermarket to open in Bangsar

GCH Retail (M) Sdn Bhd, the operator of Jasons, has expressed its regret at having to vacate BSC. (Photo by Vasantha Ganesan)

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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 14): As Hong Kong's Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd (DFI) prepares to shut down its upmarket grocery brand Jasons Food Hall at Bangsar Shopping Centre (BSC), Kuala Lumpur, another up-and-coming domestic premium grocery operator is already preparing to take over its spot.

The Food Purveyor, which operates the Village Grocer, Ben’s Independent Grocer (B.I.G) and Pasaraya OTK, is in the midst of curating a new concept that will cater to BSC’s affluent customers.

The Food Purveyor will step in and replace Jasons on March 23 — a day after the latter ceases business — to minimise disruption. Once the new retailer moves in, the space will be refurbished in phases, with the new store expected to be fully operational under the new concept in the fourth quarter of the year.

The Food Purveyor's group executive director Ivan Tan tells The Edge that his company is in the midst of fine-tuning the concept that it is specifically curating for the outlet. The yet-to-be-named outlet is expected to occupy some 33,000 sq ft of retail space, which is larger than the space currently occupied by Jasons.

"The Food Purveyor is excited to be given the opportunity to join BSC and to breathe new life into one of KL's premier retail locations," Tan says, adding the operator plans to offer top quality produce and exclusive product offerings.

Tan says the company has spent over two years researching supermarkets and food halls in a number of countries to deliver an international standard grocery model .

The BSC outlet will be The Food Purveyor's 30th, more than a decade and a half since it opened the Village Grocer in 2004.

Over the years, the retailer has added a number of brands to its portfolio. In 2017, it bought the B.I.G premium supermarket chain. It now has three Pasaraya OTK, which caters to the masses, 19 Village Grocer outlets and seven B.I.G outlets.

Private equity firm Navis Capital Partners is the majority shareholder of The Food Purveyor with a 74.91% stake while another 23.25% is held by Armani Wealth Sdn Bhd. The latter is wholly-owned by Pasaraya OTK (Gombak) Sdn Bhd.

Tan says the retailer will close B.I.G at DC Mall in early March but will open a Village Grocer at Tropicana Gardens as well as the outlet in BSC in the same month. In June, it will shutter the Village Grocer outlet in SS15 Courtyard prior to opening a store in Subang Parade.

GCH Retail (M) Sdn Bhd, the operator of Jasons, has expressed its regret at having to vacate BSC. "After months of negotiations, we are very disappointed that we have been unable to come to a mutual and workable agreement with the landlord to renew the lease," a GCH spokesperson tells theedgemarkets.com in an email.

However, BSC's owner and operator, BRDB Developments Sdn Bhd, indicated it was looking to take the mall through the next phase of growth by offering a unique elevated experience in line with changing consumer trends, especially as the mall turns 30 this year.

"BSC is committed to bringing high-quality products, services and unique experiences that will exceed the expectations of our very discerning patrons and the Bangsar community at large. We are proud to partner with one of the foremost names in the upscale supermarket segment," says BRDB Developments chief executive officer Kajendra Pathmanathan.

Kajendra assured there would be minimal interruptions to the operations of the retailer and the overall mall during the transition. BSC will also provide another 3,000 sq ft in net leasable area for the upcoming store.

For GCH, the store closure may have derailed its consolidation plans. A source tells The Edge that the store has traditionally been one of the more profitable outlets for the group. It is also learnt that a distinct number of elite consumers boast that “We only shop at Jasons”.

When asked if Jasons is one of its more profitable outlets, the spokesperson says, "It's certainly viewed as an important store for us as it is considered an iconic and premium store by many, both externally and internally."

GCH — 30%-owned by Negeri Sembilan royal family-controlled Syarikat Pesaka Antah Sdn Bhd and 70% by DFI Mauritius Ltd — has been transforming its business by resizing and shutting down many of its outlets.

Before the store was positioned as a Jasons in 2011, the retailer operated as O-Gourmet Food Hall after its initial launch as a Cold Storage outlet in 2000.

On Feb 8, the store commenced a sale at its store, offering discounts of between 5% and 30%. By Monday evening, many of its shelves were already empty.

Apart from Jasons, GCH also operates premium supermarkets under the Mercato and Cold Storage brands. Its mass market brand is Giant, which operates both supermarkets and hypermarkets.

As of Thursday, GCH has 60 supermarkets and hypermarkets from a peak of 147 in 2014.