You are on page 1of 7

ICSSEA 2011

ISC 2011

ientific Con Sc

f
e er

Internation

Proceeding of the International Conference on Social Science, Economics and Art 2011
Hotel Equatorial Bangi-Putrajaya, Malaysia, 14 - 15 January 2011
ISBN 978-983-42366-5-6

Proceeding of the
International Conference on Social Science, Economics and Art

nce
2011

ISC 2011

Cutting Edge Sciences for Future Sustainability


Hotel Equatorial Bangi-Putrajaya, Malaysia, 14 - 15 January 2011

AJ

NES DO IN

IA UNIVERS

ITI K

EB
AN

GS

SATUAN P PER EL

NM AA

Profile of Malaysian Chinese Shoppers: A Retailers Perspective


Chan Suet Kay
Department of Anthropology & Sociology, University of Malaya Address, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia E-mail: rachelchansuetkay@gmail.com

Abstract Malaysian Chinese owned retail outlets found in shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur have their own flavour, in comparison to other franchise boutiques. Certain malls i.e. Sungei Wang and Berjaya Times Square also have been associated with a Malaysian Chinese subculture called the Ah Beng subculture, which is a consumption-based identity. This study interviews a sample of retailers in a number of shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur, focusing mainly on fashion and lifestyle based retail outlets, where they are interviewed about their customer profile. The results are then compared with the profile of the members of the Ah Beng subculture to verify if these are indeed the malls associated with it. Keywords consumption, identity, shopping malls, Malaysian Chinese, subculture.

I. INTRODUCTION This paper looks at Malaysian Chinese retailers perspectives of its customers and the forces that work in influencing the latters consumption habits. A total of 19 retailers from varying outlet types are interviewed qualitatively regarding their customer profile and the influences they perceive to be instrumental to the customers shopping choices. The paper begins with a cursory glance at Malaysian Chinese retail outlets in Kuala Lumpur and proceeds to review other literature on behaviour in shopping malls. It then presents the viewpoints of several retailers regarding the sociolinguistic profiles of their customers. The predicted results are that Malaysian Chinese shoppers frequent Malaysian Chinese retail outlets due to the meaning embedded in consumption symbols (after Aaker, Benet-Martinez, and Garolera, 2001) afforded by the Chinese-oriented designs of the outlets. II. MALAYSIAN CHINESE RETAIL OUTLETS IN KUALA LUMPUR: WHAT MAKES THEM SPECIAL? What is special and makes this study noteworthy is the fact that the researcher, being a shopper at various shopping malls since 2003 after leaving high school, has noticed that Malaysian Chinese owned retail outlets seem to have a life of its own. Compared to other chain retail outlets such as

Mango (MNG), Zara, TopShop, BritishIndia, or other conglomerate types, the Chinese owned retail outlets (whether owned by a chain or a single outlet) tend to be very Chinese in its displays. For instance, even if the outlet consists of a chain, each of its units will be slightly different in terms of design. One of these is a popular retail outlet found in Berjaya Times Square (a shopping mall), which is the All RM 10 and All RM 25 outlets. These tend to be found all over Berjaya Times Square, on different levels yet possessing something in common which enables one to identify it as being part of a chain, such as Chinese lettering. Another is the rather popular Fortune Chinese boutique, which is also found spread throughout Berjaya Times Square, with 2 outlet units at least. The other outstanding characteristic of these is the low pricing of goods, yet with fashions up to date with the times. These fashions tend to be inspired by Korean, Japanese, and mainly Hong Kong and Taiwan trends. Less so is the influence of Western fashion styles, although generally global fashion trends tend to converge somewhere (for instance since Michael Jacksons death military chic seems to have become in vogue). Links between the cultural capital provided by these sites of observation and the formation of identity among its shoppers, believed to be mainly Malaysian Chinese, are tested through a set of interviews. This collection of qualitative interviews then hopes to gauge the influences on shoppers shopping habits, and takes place throughout a few shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur, in order to randomize the selection of
174

NS S IA NE

TUDENTS AS

SO

CI A

Organized by Indonesian Students Association Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

ALAYSIA
IN DO

ON TI

retailers being interviewed, so as to avoid the effects of geographical similarity or peer influence on responses.

consumers buying behavior. Pre-decision stage of consumers purchasing behavior established strong association with the impulse buying behavior of the consumers.[4]

III. A REVIEW ON CONSUMPTION BEHAVIOUR IN SHOPPING MALLS The links between consumption and identity formation have been explored by Van Gorp (2005). In the paper Van Gorp notes the ephemeral quality of identity in contemporary society despite its function in differentiating or similarising oneself to the rest of society . That people are able to construct and reconstruct their self on their whim is facilitated through the mass availability of shopping avenues. This can be illustrated by the marketing and mass manufacturing of clothes to suit a particular genre-fied lifestyle. For example, the emo subculture in America has been largely commoditised by brands such as Hot Topic. Non-emos, or people who actually do not identify with its ideology but nevertheless admire its fashions are able to appropriate easily and accessibly these goods. So the meaning of the subculture becomes subverted. Georg Simmel in Culture and the Quantitative Increase in Material Culture (Miller, 2001) writes about the increase in material culture and lag in individual culture. The relationship between the former and the latter, Simmel writes, is inverse. Despite the increase in material culture, individual culture has not become more refined, even in the upper strata. It has, Simmel notes, frequently declined in fact. Massification of consumer products and the effects it has on the consumers mind, is a topic much covered in Ritzers McDonalidisation. The disaffection displayed by dandyism, which arose in the late 19th century in Europe, was one of the first turning points for clothing to symbolize rebellion, and thus give the wearer some form of individual identity . This can be seen as linked to consumer behaviour in choosing certain sartorial items. However, with the growth of mass marketing, the initial essence of subversion found in subcultural styles has been diluted to merely picking and choosing from a wider mix. Tirmizi, Rehman, and Saif (2009) in their study of consumer impulse buying behaviour mentions that it is seen that shopping mall owners try to exploit impulses. The study also mentioned that according to Park (2006), a positive relationship of fashion involvement with the impulse buying behaviour of the consumers was reported. However, Tirmizi, Rehman, and Saif conclude that in their study, statistics showed a negative association between fashion involvement and attitudinal and behavioural aspects of impulse buying. That is to say that the latter concludes that shopping for fashion is not merely on impulse but premeditated. The results of this research study clearly indicate that there exists a weak association between consumer lifestyle, fashion involvement and post-decision stage of consumers purchasing behavior with the impulse buying behavior including the attitudinal as well as behavioral aspects of the

Thus, we need to look for other factors that influence this shopping behaviour. Bourdieus habitus comes in as a handy concept in situating the buyer within their perceived relation to the social and economic world. Bourdieu writes that 'the class structure of society...becomes internalised in distinct class habitus'. 'Each habitus embodies both the material conditions of existence of the class and the symbolic differentiations (eg. high/low, rich/poor) that categorise and rank its relation to other classes. Individuals then enter the various fields of taste with dispositions that predispose them to make lifestyle choices characteristic of their class habitus.' [5]

Working class Malaysian Chinese purchase goods relevant to their interests and which they feel does not betray their origins. Wearing something closely associated with TV shows like Gossip Girl might not correspond to their origins as much as a Korean or Taiwanese TV drama would. Holt (2001) challenges Bourdieus theory of cultural capital in relation to consumption patterns by saying that in America, the focus should be on actual consumption products as opposed to practice. However, it is also noted by Holt that: Unlike economic theories of markets in which people are conceived as strategic actors, in Bourdieus theory, resources that are valued in fields of consumption are naturalized and mystified in the habitus as tastes and consumption practices. Jean Baudrillard, meanwhile, discusses the 'conditioning of needs' which is as he says, much linked in popular discussions to advertising as a facilitator. Mass culture, he mentions, tends toward the glorification of excessive wealth, or affluence, to the point that people are separated from their true needs . This process, which is the process of alienation, promises consumers something with which to fill their perceived empty voids. For instance, working class Malaysian Chinese believe they can attain their dreams by dressing like their favourite East Asian (mainly Taiwanese) celebrity, especially in styles propagated by television reality talent shows which enable almost anyone with a minimum amount of talent to stand a chance to win. By dressing like them, the Malaysian Chinese believe they are bringing themselves one step nearer to their heroes. Meaghan Morris (1988) writes in Things to do with Shopping Centres about the positioning of womens lives in the shopping centre as a place to be seen and to negotiate identities. The shopping centre has evolved from that of a marketplace to a field of interactions and exchange of selfperception among its customers. People define and redefine their use of shopping malls as a private and public space beyond just the economic realm. This is true as far as

175

Berjaya Times Square is concerned. On weekends as well as on school holidays, droves of youngsters imitating fashion trends from East Asia, particularly the Elegant Gothic Lolita and Aristrocrat fashions from Japan can be seen. Aaker, Benet-Martinez, and Garolera (2001) argued in their research that the meaning embedded in consumption symbols, such as commercial brands, can serve to represent and institutionalize the values and beliefs of a culture. It is thus that the author of this paper seeks to investigate if this is indeed so, whereby Malaysian Chinese tend towards shopping in the Malaysian Chinese owned retail outlets due to a sense of familiarity with such symbols as mentioned earlier, like the Chinese lettering or the colloquial sounding shop names. Regarding the origins of shopping malls and its outreach in Kuala Lumpur, Prof. Dr. Sieh Lee Mei Ling in her inaugural lecture in University of Malaya charted the rise of retail structures facilitating consumption. According to the lecture, The 1980s saw new models of foreign entry and the rise of large scale local retailers. These included more sophisticated retail formats when local as well as foreignowned specialty chain stores sprouted e.g. Somerset Bay, East India, Bossini, Giordana, including several 24-hour convenient stores like 7-Eleven and mini markets at petrol kiosks. Foreign named stores in food, personal care, apparel, shoes, pharmacies, optical, usually in strategic locations in shopping complexes and residential estates. Often largescale retail chains presented themselves as small-sized outlets that adopted skimming pricing strategies with definite customer orientation for facilities, layout, and services. [9] IV. THE INTERVIEWS A number of shopping malls were chosen for this interview, rather than focusing only on Berjaya Times Square which was noted earlier, in order to allow for greater representation. Retailers instead of customers were chosen due to the fact retailers are more accessible and it is possible to actually verify responses by repeated observation. Furthermore customers might be in a hurry or afraid to reveal personal data. Retailers also, having spent their whole day at the shops, likely to have free time to talk. Furthermore at the time the researcher attempted to interview one of the retailers of a Chinese owned retail shop specializing in Gothic Lolita wear, the researcher was requested to bring a special identification letter. Due to time constraint in gathering data for the thesis, the researcher then decided to broaden the scope to extend beyond only fashion outlets and to include also hair salons, electronic shops (for items such as computers and mobile phones), and accessory shops. As much as possible conglomerate type stores were attempted to be avoided. This is because the researcher wanted to mainly investigate the tendency of working class shoppers to visit the Chinese owned retail outlets that featured working class prices. However, people such as the researchers own self also felt compelled to visit these stores, despite the apparent Made in China-ness of the clothes, a prospect which some people view negatively in terms of quality. This was another point of contention the researcher wanted to look at, and

hence this project will also include some autoethnography. The total amount of time taken for the interviews was circa a week. THE RESULTS OF THE INTERVIEWS The interviews here are presented as qualitative data to capture the nuances in which the following observations were expressed. PROPRIETOR INTERVIEWS Mobile phone retailer, Taman Kinrara, Puchong 1. Number of customers daily? 100. 2. Which phone model is the most popular? The Sony C903 and C902 3. Why do you think it is popular? The stats are a bit high, the price not too expensive. 4. How do people choose phones to buy? Based on the features 5. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Theres a mix of customers, but for Chinese there are more Chinezse-speaking 6. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? No, we recommend them the phones. 7. Have you heard of the term Ah Beng? No Game shop attendant, OUG 1. Number of customers daily? Depends on the season. Usually less than 50. 2. Which games are the most popular? The Playstation and the PSP 3. Why do you think it is popular? The price and the quality. 4. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Yes, and mostly Chinese speaking 5. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? Dont think so 6. What is the age range of your customers? 5 to 30 plus 7. Have you heard of the term Ah Beng? No Unisex Hair salon stylist, OUG 1. Number of customers daily? 8 to 10, more on weekends 2. Which hairstyles are the most popular? Which is the most popular hair service eg. cut, wash etc? Do the customers bring their own photos for reference? Cuts. They usually go for styles that are more easy to maintain. No, they take advice from stylists. 3. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Yes, most are Chinese speaking 4. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? Do they follow any trends for hairstyles? Mostly teenagers are more influenced by advertising. They follow trends from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea mostly. Many teenagers refer to that type of style. 5. What is the age range of your customers? Mostly between 25 to 35.

176

6. Have you heard of the term Ah Beng? If you have, do you think it is true they have colourful hair? Not really. No. Popular Malaysian Chinese Language Blogger/Online Boutique Owner 1. What is the number of customers daily/monthly? 400~800 visitors to website daily 2. Which designs are the most popular? Basic and wear-able pieces 3. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Most of them are Chinese, and some Malay. More English speaking 4. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising, or other media? Yes 5. What is the age range of your customers? 18-35 Boutique Owner at Sungei Wang T-Hop 1. Number of customers daily? Depends, more on weekends. (Couldnt specify number) 2. What types of clothes are popular? What sort of fashion does your shop follow? Thai fashion. Follow Thai magazines from Bangkok. The clothes are also from Bangkok. (Shows the researcher a stack of Thai fashion magazines which are on her counter, saying they arrive each month with the clothing stocks). 3. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Mostly. Some are also Malay, but the least Indian. All languages. 4. What is the age range of your customers? Mostly 20 something. But some aunties also. 5. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising, or do you recommend them the products? We do recommend sometimes, which clothes they would look better in. (Invites the researcher to come and shop sometime). Knick-knacks and Accessories Outlet Worker, Sungei Wang T-Hop 1. Number of customers daily? On weekends, we have about 50 a day. 2. What types of accessories are popular? Mobile phone accessories 3. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Usually Chinese. Sometimes they speak English and sometimes Malay. (the worker is a foreigner) 4. What is the age range of your customers? Teenagers and 20 somethings. 5. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? Magazines from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Hip-Hop Boutique Worker, Sungei Wang 1. Number of customers daily? 30 2. What types of clothes are popular? The Ed Hardy brand. Some like the bling-bling. Some are following current trends. 3. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Chinese, Malay, Indian.

4. What is the age range of your customers? 20 to 30 plus. 5. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? A lot of advertising. Magazines. Boutique Owner, Sungei Wang 1. Number of customers daily? 20 to 30 2. What types of clothes are popular? What sort of fashion does your shop follow? Mainly Hong Kong fashion, on a lesser scale Japanese and Korean fashion. Our fashions are equally popular. 3. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Chinese and Malay. The Chinese speak Chinese more. 4. What is the age range of your customers? Teenagers, 20 somethings, some aunties. IT Repair and Accessories Shopkeeper, Times Square 1. Number of customers daily? 8 to 9 on weekends 2. What computer brand is popular? Acer. 3. Why do you think it is popular? The quality, and its cheaper. 4. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Most are Chinese, speaking in English. 5. What is the age range of your customers? 20 to 40 6. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising, or do you recommend them the products? Yes. Camera and photo services shop owner, Times Square 1. Number of customers daily? 300 2. What camera brands are popular? Nikon 3. Why do you think it is popular? Just downstairs, we have the Nikon Center, who recommends its customers upstairs. 4. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Mixed, some foreigners, most Chinese. Since this shopping mall is around a Chinese area. Mainly English speaking. 5. What is the age range of your customers? 20 to 60. A lot are teenagers too. 6. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? Yes. Taxi driver from Cheras An account by the researcher of a taxi driver in Cheras sharing his experiences: On the way back from a friend's convocation in a university in Cheras, a town in Kuala Lumpur, the taxi driver attempted to make conversation in Chinese. Speaking in Mandarin, he asked me a question to which I replied in English. He then asked why I did not speak in Chinese considering I was from Kuala Lumpur and had parents who are Chinese. I then asked if the majority of people in Cheras spoke in Chinese dialects (including Mandarin) to which he said yes. Being from Cheras, he explained that the most widely used dialect in Cheras was Cantonese, while a second widest used dialect was Hokkien. I asked him why people in Malaysia were increasingly moving from the once-dominant Cantonese dialect to Mandarin (the Chinese official language). He replied that as China was growing as a world

177

superpower, there was a trend for the Malaysian Chinese to immerse themselves in the Mandarin language. Massage Chair retail assistant, IOI Mall 1. Number of customers daily? 30 2. What massage chairs are popular? The Smart Air Plus Massage Chair, the Smart Lounge, the 2-in-1 sofa with Thai massage. 3. Why do you think it is popular? People like the massage chairs because it helps them to relax. Also they are special to our brand, which offers zero gravity position, we are the first model out. 4. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Chinese, Malay, Indians. The Chinese speak mostly Chinese, but also English and Malay. 5. What is the age range of your customers? 30 and above. Mens clothing retail assistant, IOI Mall 1. Number of customers daily? 30 2. Where do the fashion trends come from? Made in Malaysia. Brands from Malaysia. 3. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Yes, mostly. In Chinese. 4. What is the age range of your customers? 30 to 40. 5. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? Dont know. Family clothing retailer, IOI Mall 1. Number of customers daily? On weekdays around 10, on weekends around 50. 2. Where do the fashion trends come from? China, Thailand, some local. 3. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Not most, some Malay and Indian. 4. What is the age range of your customers? All ages, we have childrens, ladies, mens clothing. 5. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? No. Shoe shop retail assistant, IOI Mall 1. Number of customers daily? 100 2. What shoes are popular? People have different tastes 3. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Chinese, Malay, Indian. 4. What is the age range of your customers? All ages. 5. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? Yes, but we also recommend. Ladies clothing boutique retailer, IOI Mall 1. Number of customers daily? Few tens 2. What type of clothes are popular? Where do the fashions come from? Office wear. Singapore fashion. 3. Why do you think it is popular? Just downstairs, we have the Nikon Center, who recommends its customers upstairs.

4. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Yes, they speak Chinese. 5. What is the age range of your customers? 20 to 40. 6. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? No. Hair product supplier, IOI Mall 1. Number of customers daily? 20 to 30 2. What items are popular? Shampoo and serum. 3. Which brands are the most popular? Theyre equally popular. 4. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Most are Chinese, speak Chinese. 5. What is the age range of your customers? Mostly 30 to 40, less in their 20s. More aunties. 6. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? Sometimes. We also recommend if the product is good. Popular unisex hair salon stylist (with many branches across the country), IOI Mall 1. Number of customers daily? Between 15 to 20 2. What hairstyles are popular? Stylish ones. 3. Where do the styles come from/inspired by? Hong Kong (seniors), some Taiwan (juniors), Korea, and least Japan. 4. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Mostly Chinese. Language is mixed. 5. What is the age range of your customers? 20 to 60. A lot are teenagers too. 6. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? They might look at magazines, but stylists might recommend if the magazine examples are not suitable for them. Clothing outlet retailer, sporty wear, IOI Mall 1. Number of customers daily? Around 50 2. What clothing styles are popular? Long sleeved shirts and collared T-shirts 3. Where do the fashions come from? From Malaysia 4. Why do you think it is popular? Customers look for collar T-shirts the most. 5. Are most of your customers Chinese? Are there more English-speaking or Chinese-speaking Chinese? Mixed, Chinese, African, Indian. 6. What is the age range of your customers? 16 to 30 something. 7. Do you think your customers are influenced by advertising? Yes.

V. AN ANALYSIS OF THE INTERVIEW DATA The Ah Beng Subculture and Shopping Malls The Ah Beng subculture has been described by the results of a popular opinion survey conducted among Malaysian Chinese urban youth as consisting of clothing styles that are tight, bright, colourful, weird, and

178

loud. As for music the Ah Beng has been said to prefer Chinese pop, techno, and rock. They are said to like shopping, hanging out, gaming, karaoke, and clubbing. They are described to be employed as typically in sales, as loan sharks, mechanics, jobless, or as designers.[10] It has been widely believed that the Ah Beng prefers to shop in a select few shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur. These include Sungei Wang, Berjaya Times Square, Cheras Leisure Mall, and other malls with high Malaysian Chinese density. For this purpose the interviews were done in a few shopping malls, mainly those fitting the description of having high Malaysian Chinese density. Analysis From the findings it is apparent that while the retail outlets interviewed are primarily owned and staffed by Malaysian Chinese, its patrons are not necessarily so. There is in fact a multicultural dimension to the mix of shoppers despite knowing that the fashions are Chinese oriented. The numbers of customers vary between an average of 10 per day to a few hundred. The items popular with customers are chosen due to the fact that they are affordable, have good quality, are easy to maintain (for hairstyles), clothes that are wearable, fashion from the boutiques supplier country, a brands cult following (Ed Hardy), and uniqueness of product. There are even some with individualistic tendencies, as evidenced in the retailers response People have different tastes. It is also apparent that not all shoppers base their preferences upon advertising influences. There are some who have been recommended by the retail assistants as to what looks good or works for them well. Out of 19 sets, 10 of the responses to the question regarding whether customers are influenced by advertising are in the positive. Several times, when this question was posed, magazines which were deemed by the retailer to have an effect on customer purchasing were also mentioned. These were named to be magazines from or about Hong Kong, Taiwan, and also Thailand. 9 out of the 19 responses reiterate that the Malaysian Chinese patrons who go to their shops do speak primarily in Chinese. The reason this question was asked is due to the assumption that a Chinese educated person would normally start speaking in Chinese first and foremost upon meeting another supposed Chinese language speaker. Furthermore there would be no other way for the retailer to know about the customers educational background otherwise. This shows that Sungei Wang, while being a major hotspot for fashion and lifestyle, has recently become more of a tourist attraction and thus lures customers from all around the country as well as overseas tourists. The mix of shoppers has grown, but the majority is still Malaysian Chinese. The observed ages of the customers are at a mean of 20 to 30 years old. Some of the goods sold are relevant to all ages, such as electronics. In terms of clothing however, the age range centers around the young adult category. Correspondingly so, the shops are notably mainly of the young adult age range in terms of patrons. This shows that the income level of the shop patrons are possibly at a entry level workers salary which is to say not too high nor too low. These are also people who have leisure time to shop,

and they do so most often on weekends as evidenced by most retailers claiming high traffic on weekends. As for the popular Chinese language blogger with her own online shop, her large following of youngsters with Internet access and savvy has enabled her to capitalize on this group of style consumers. As for style or technological influences, it is mainly East Asian, although there is not one specific country but many. To note, as for the question on whether the retailer knew what the meaning of the term Ah Beng was, the question was only posed if the retailer appeared friendly and not chasing time. Otherwise, the researcher feared that such a question would be seen as a waste of time and might provoke an unfriendly response, which would hamper the process of interviewing. However, when the question was asked, the retailers generally recorded a blank response. It is interesting to note that this also happened among the urban youth selected for the opinion survey on Ah Beng subculture who themselves resembled Ah Beng. The intention of the study is once again, to compare if the profile of shoppers in the selected few malls in Kuala Lumpur were indeed of the Ah Beng socioeconomic background. Thus retailers were interviewed to find out if this was indeed what they observed among their clientele. The results of the interviews were then compared with the profile of the Ah Beng found in the chapter Ah Beng Subculture: A Popular View. From this comparison, we can observe that while the Ah Beng subculture is described as having a tendency to speak in mainly Chinese, especially in the Hokkien dialect; shunning English unless it is completely necessary (and resorting to speaking in broken English); having a love for conspicuous display of their taste in the form of material goods such as branded, loud clothing or jewellery; and are generally unrefined in their behaviour, the description given by retailers of their customers is not necessarily so. In some instances the results do match the Ah Beng profile, but not in every instance. Perhaps this could be due to the choice of retailers interviewed the shops chosen did not cater to primarily Chinese customers; or that the trend of imitating East Asian celebrities by dressing alike has spread to other ethnicities as well. Nvertheless, there were instances in which the descriptions fit, and that has proven that to a certain extent, bar factors such as the adoption of trends by other groups, that Ah Bengs do frequent shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur with a high concentration of Chinese retail outlets. Does This Prove Consumption Shapes Identity Among the Malaysian Chinese? Certainly, from this data set we can conclude that peoples identities in terms of cultural background as well as purchasing power relate to their purchasing habits, as according to the retailers. To a certain extent purchasing Chinese and East Asian inspired goods reaffirm the behaviour of the Chinese speaking crowd. However as advertising is not cited to be a major influence, this link is not too reliable, as far as this study is concerned. Further interviews in the following chapter, entitled Shopping

179

Habits hopes to answer this question from a different dimension, that of the shoppers.

[2] [3]

VI. CONCLUSION This study is an attempt to record the observations of retailers at shopping malls about their customers shopping habits, due to the fact that they can readily observe large sets of customers coming in and out on a daily basis. This is even more so than the researcher. Hence the shopkeepers position as a data treasure trove should not be ignored. These findings then shall be compared in the next chapter to a survey of urban youth regarding their consumption habits, in order to get both sides of the picture.

[4]

[5] [6] [7]

[8]

[9]

REFERENCES
[1] Van Gorp, Jeremi. 2005. Youth, identity and consumption: A research model. Draft paper prepared for the 7th Conference of the European Sociological Association Rethinking Inequalities, Torun [10]

- Poland. http://www.sifo.no/files/Van_Gorp.pdf. Retrieved 29 June 2010. Miller, Daniel. Consumption: Theory and issues in the study of consumption. Taylor & Francis. 1 Wilson, Elizabeth. 1985. Oppositional Dress. Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity (in Consumption ed. Miller) Tirmizi, Rehman, and Saif. 2009. An Empirical Study of Consumer Impulse Buying Behavior in Local Markets. European Journal of Scientific Research. ISSN 1450-216X Vol.28 No.4 (2009), pp.522532 Pierre Bourdieu, in Swartz, David. 1997. Culture & power: the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. pp 163 Baudrillard, Jean. 1970. The consumer society: myths and structures. Morris, Meaghan. 1988. Things to do with Shopping Centres. Feminist Cultural Criticism (in Consumption: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences (ed. Miller). Routledge. Aaker, Jennifer. Benet-Martinez, Vernica. Garolera, Jordi. 2001. Consumption Symbols as Carries of Culture: A Study of Japanese and Spanish Brand Personality Constructs. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology. Sieh, Lee Mei Ling. 2003. Is WTO a Boon or a Bane for Shoppers and Retailers in Malaysia? University Malaya Inaugural Lecture. Pp 19. Chan, Suet Kay. 2010. The Ah Beng Subculture. A Popular View. Official Conference Proceedings, The Asian Conference on the Social Sciences. June 18-21, Osaka, Japan.

180