The Not-So-Great Mall of China: Welcome to the world's largest (and loneliest) shopping centre
It was trumpeted as the world's largest retail mall, with shoppers able to browse through 1,500 stores, take a stroll along a mock Venetian canal or even have lunch in front of an 85ft replica of the Arc de Triomphe. But the New South China Mall, which opened in 2005, stands empty with 99 per cent of its shops having remained unleased and attractions including a 553-metre indoor and outdoor roller coaster standing idle. It was designed to attract an average of more than 70,000 visitors a day to the city of Dongguan, but has less than a dozen shops in its 9.6million sq ft of floor space.
Abandoned: The New South China Mall is the largest in the world, with space for 1,500 stores, but has less than 12 shops Just before it opened the mall, which is located in China's southern Pearl River Delta, it was heralded by the New York Times as part of 'China's astonishing new consumer culture'. The mall's developer, Hu Guirong, sent a team travelling around the world for two years in search of ideas.It features seven zones modelled on different parts of the world, including a replica of the bell tower of St Mark's Square in Venice, as well and area dedicated to downtown San Francisco.
David Hand, a retail analyst at Jones LaSalle in Beijing, said: 'They set out to the be the biggest, and hoped that being the biggest would be the attracting factor.
'The Chinese love shopping, they love brands, and they love international products, even though the average income is low.
China has been hit hard by the global recession, and the city of Dongguan is known for its popularity with low-paid factory workers.
The only occupied areas of the mall are near the entrance, where several Western fast food chains sell burgers next to an abandoned go-kart track.
Dick Groves, a retail consultant based in Hong Kong, said the failure of the New South China Mall was down to inexperience in leasing business and an undisciplined financial system.
'When it's easy to get financing without having to convince someone of the project's feasability, and without having to show pre-leasing commitment, you can start to get into trouble,' he told The National.