There has been a general, global downward trend in retail for several years now. The main reasons could be the advent of online shopping with accessibility to everything and the convenience of shopping from home. For Guam, specifically, the trend also has to do with down-sizing our retail economy from the peak of the 1980s and 1990s (due to our duty-free status) and being the go-to-place for luxury shopping. As the Asian countries opened up to luxury brands, we have had to adjust and normalize to a more realistic level.
Guam still has the advantage of being cheaper than our visitors’ home countries and the convenience of having a shopping district that is easily accessible and concentrated within a small area. The more exclusive luxury brands are doing exceptionally well and keep growing. Customers are able to get a better price and when buying luxury items, the experience and personal service is part of the package. If you are spending thousands of dollars you want to make sure you’re getting the real deal and in mint condition.
The challenge for retailers is to choose trends that are “in” and that does vary greatly when comparing the visitors’ demographics — so understanding the customer is key. Having brands or products not readily available at home and at a price-point that makes it worthwhile to shop on Guam are things to consider.
The challenge from the point of view of shopping malls has been to diversify into services or products that add to the guests’ experience. Food and beverage and entertainment are doing very well. This is quite noticeable for example with the recent transition at Tumon Sands Plaza where Red Lobster and Olive Garden (among others) are replacing the luxury retail spaces. At The Plaza Shopping Center, Outrigger and Dusit Thani hotel complex, we have tried to create a balance between retail, entertainment and F&B’s. There are the smaller, specialty restaurants such as Vitale’s, Tentekomai, Beachin’ Shrimp and Eat Street Grill, to mention a few.
As in most Asian countries, restaurants tend to be quite small with expertise in a specific type of food. This way the customer can be sure they are getting the best quality for that small menu. We have the fine-dining restaurants such as Avenue Steak and Lobster and the Dusit Thani restaurants, providing gourmet food for special occasions. Now we have an area within Outrigger lobby furnished with various kiosks designated only to desert concepts. California Pizza Kitchen with live entertainment will be opening end of this year to add to the larger eateries such as Sea Grill and IHOP. We are constantly looking for new and original concepts of F&B and entertainment or, preferably, the combination of both such as the Hard Rock Café, Bambu Bar and Underwater World’s Dinner Under-the-Sea that offer quality food and a memorable experience.
Guamanians have done a great job in redefining our offerings and adjusting to the customer demands. One such example is the rental car businesses that have multiplied to meet the demand of Korean tourists. Likewise, the retail stores have to adjust to the taste of a different crowd and spending habits. The range of restaurants has increased and quality keeps improving. Something that can add value and create new interest, such as the entertainment industry in the form of children’s activities, theme parks, specialty bars, J-pop and K-pop and other events that we add to the list of things that attract people to Guam.