Lifestyle See and do

Battle of the brands

Written by Pai Yao

This article first appeared in the Mar/Apr 2012 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Make no bones about it, there is a war happening right now in Macau. Wars are usually fought between countries, using weapons, and the prize is land. This war is different. It’s fought between Macau’s six casino concessionaire companies, using marketing, and the prize is hundreds of billions of tourist dollars.

The opening of Sands Macao in 2004 heralded the start of this “marketing war of Macau”. Like most wars, it is being fought on multiple battlefronts. WGM has identified ten of them. In approximate order that visitors encounter them in, they are:

  • Transportation (getting players to and from the properties)
  • Integrated resort design (the building s and all they have to offer)
  • Gaming (the product mix, stakes, rooms, setting, dealers, and so on)
  • Player rewards (the great gaming differentiator)
  • Hotels
  • Dining
  • Shopping
  • Pampering (spas, treatment centres and the like)
  • Shows (of the long run major production variety
  • Nightlife and other entertainment (clubbing, cocktail lounges, invited acts for short run shows, events and so on)

Amongst the six concessionaires, there are various winners and losers of these battles. The fight for ultimate supremacy is still raging, with no clear winners or losers as yet. Just like any war there are skirmishes, front-on attacks, tactical retreats and even some espionage. Eventually, one or two of the six concessionaires of the “new Macau” will emerge as the dominant player or players in the industry. Only time will tell which.

The sheer volume of money going across the felt ensures that gaming and player rewards are the two major battlefronts, but the importance of Macau’s shopping battle should not be underestimated. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, casinos and shopping go hand in glove, because wherever you have casinos you have winners with unexpected windfalls burning holes in their pockets. Such unexpected windfalls often get spent, at least in part, on impulse buying. The second reason has everything to do with Asia’s well-documented love affair with brand names.

Retail is a serious source of revenue for the operators and their tenants, and that revenue is only going to grow as time goes on. Given Macau’s enormous gaming industry, it’s easy to forget about the billions of dollars spent on non-gaming activities. Retail spending in Macau totalled US$5.4 billion in 2011, up 42 percent on 2010. That’s almost the amount of gross gaming revenue for the Las Vegas strip!

Here at WGM it’s our job to inform you, the gaming public, where the best experiences are to be had in Macau and Asia’s other gaming destinations. The average trip to Macau lasts a mere 1.5 days, so players don’t have time to waste. Our local knowledge gives you the edge in knowing where to go, what to do, and what pitfalls to avoid.

So what’s our take on the state of play right now in Macau with regard to shopping? Who is winning that battle? Without a shadow of doubt, the Sands China properties on the Cotai strip (Venetian, Plaza and Sands Cotai Central) are way out in front, and it’s daylight second. It all started when The Venetian Macao opened in 2007 and proceeded to bring us the biggest shopping mall Macau has ever seen, The Grand Canal Shoppes. With 311 retail outlets at last count, The Grand Canal Shoppes is more than double the size of its twin at the Venetian Las Vegas.

Sands China Limited
(HKEx code 1928)
1. Sands Macau opened 2004
2. The Venetian Macau opened 2007
3. The Plaza opened 2008
4. Sands Cotai Central opening 11 April 2012


When the Four Seasons hotel at the Plaza casino opened in 2008, Macau had its first ever high-end luxury mall. The Shoppes at the Four Seasons is home to 73 retail outlets at last count, offering over 150 brands. Both The Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian and The Shoppes at the Four Seasons are open from 10am to 11pm Sunday to Thursday, and 10am to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

Sands China sees its model as being supply-driven, compared to the traditional demand-driven markets of most other industries. The more the company offers, the more people are eager to enjoy its products and services. With the opening of Sands Cotai Central, the company aims to provide even more opportunities to experience all the Cotai Strip has to offer. In keeping with the company’s history of offering a plethora of shopping, Sands Cotai Central will be home to Shoppes Cotai Central, the latest in its stable of shopping malls.

The first phase of Shoppes Cotai Central will occur as part of the launch of the Sands Cotai Central resort in April. This initial phase will see 28 retail outlets opening, including the first-to-market brands of Michael Kors, Sergio Rossi and Pink Grill.

Shoppes Cotai Central (phase 1 opens April 2012):
Fabio Caviglia   Optica  Pink Grill
 Rolex  Arté Madrid  Edo Japanese
 Gucci  Moda Shu  Pacific Coffee
 Bottega Veneta  Luk Fook Jewellery  McDonald’s
 Trussardi  Choi Chi Gold  Hei Loi
 Michael Kors  Monte Carlo Jewellery  Pastelaria Koi Kei
 Sergio Rossi  Unique Time Pieces  Royal Bakery
 Yves Saint Laurent  Tak Cheong Watches & Jewellery  Venetian Sundries
 Evita Peroni  Cigar Emporium
 Hanmac  Cotai Travel Limited


The opening of Shoppes Cotai Central has meant the creation of yet another concept in itself: “Shoppes Cotai”. This is the name Sands China is using to refer to the conglomeration of their now three interconnected shopping malls on the Cotai Strip.

Sands China is justified in amalgamating the three and collectively calling them “Shoppes Cotai”. The Grand Canal Shoppes and The Shoppes at the Four Seasons are seamlessly connected without leaving the building, and Sands Cotai Central will eventually be connected to the Venetian by a walkway across the Cotai Strip. In many ways Shoppes Cotai will really feel like one single enormous shopping mall. Sands China tells us that when the final phase is complete, Shoppes Cotai will house nearly 600 retailers.

“Shoppes Cotai will be the ultimate onestop luxury duty-free shopping experience,” said David Sylvester, Senior Vice President of Retail Asia, Las Vegas Sands Corp. “Sands Cotai Central, along with The Venetian Macao and The Plaza Macao, are together creating what is, in essence, an integrated resort-city on the Cotai Strip. Visitors and guests will have everything they could want at their fingertips, all within reach: not just the best in retail, but the best in dining, entertainment, accommodation, gaming and conventions. Shoppes Cotai and Sands Cotai Central will be a tourist’s heaven.”

When Shoppes Cotai Central opens in April, shoppers will enjoy an environment abundant in natural light, with cascading waterfalls, green vegetation and rocky cliff sides. It will contain an entire floor dedicated to family-oriented retail outlets. Sands’ aim is to ensure every type of consumer is catered for, whether they are luxury-seekers, savvy shoppers or those just looking for a nice day out with family and friends.

Whether Shoppes Cotai remains the best shopping venue in Macau remains to be seen, but there is no doubt the other resorts like Galaxy and City of Dreams are a long way behind. To have any chance of even going close to catching up, they will have to pull a very special rabbit out of a hat. We’ll let you know if they do.

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