In recent years, the Macao government has been promoting the Anim’Arte NAM VAN as a destination of cultural innovation, tourism, leisure and catering options. Cultural and creative stores blossomed in that area as a result. Isaac Tong and Marcus Wong, from Mojito Culture Limited, also followed suit and won the tender for one of the underground space at Nam Van. They turned the place into M Dimensions and officially opened the store this January.
Becoming a cultural and creative hub
“M” stands for Macao, while “Dimensions” means shape, or landscape. Together “M Dimensions” stands for the shape of Macao, or the creative landscape of Macao.
Tong, mastermind of the M Dimensions, found that the rent on average is high in Macao, and spaces with lower unit rate are too big for young entrepreneurs to run. When the Cultural Affairs Bureau opened this tender, the pair happened to find a business site with reasonable rental price and appropriate space. After careful analysis, they decided to give it a try. “It is our wishes that this place could become a cultural hub and support other local cultural and creative businesses or art organisations, and even attract them to join us,” Tong explained. Different from ordinary retailing stores, they care about not only sales performances, but also the stories and cultural values consumers could find and resonate with at the store, as well as the ability of craftsmen and artists to promote themselves and build better brand image.
Marketing for artists
According to Wong, mastermind and Operation Director of the M Dimensions, they have to sell cultural and creative products and provide relevant services because of the contract and bidding rules. “If we only sell cultural and creative products, we would hardly survive. If we could also provide relevant services and experience, our 'goods' will be more comprehensive and bring more economic benefits,” he explained. Therefore, Wong would organise all kinds of workshops and encourage artists to make better use of the space and enhance customer’s experience.
Currently, half of the products sold in M Dimensions are originally made in Macao. Small but practical products are relatively popular, while few customers would buy handcrafts. “Since craftsmen are often unfamiliar with how to carry out marketing campaigns and display their products, consumers often find such products not appealing enough. Mass-manufactured products, however, are easier to sell. On one hand, their business models are quite mature; on the other hand, their manufacturers know the market well,” Wong explained. “After all, we are not selling products of high profit margin, such as cosmetics, gold, medicine, souvenirs. Instead, we sell only daily goods and art products. So, it takes time to make ends meet,” Tong added.
Besides striking a balance between mass-manufactured products and handcrafts, they would also invite creators and artists to join them and provide relevant services. “Since they are quite new in the business, they are often weak in marketing and find it hard to find offline outlets. Therefore, we have to help them improve their brand images with our experience. As to business cooperation, we will see what type of activity it is and charge fees accordingly. Our cooperation plans will be tailor-made to meet the specific needs of our partners. We can also provide necessary equipment or even event-planning, on-site arrangement, administrative procedures handling, promotion, etc. It all depends on what our partners need. We are professional and have the skills to organise activities better,” they explained.
Customer experience matters
After careful consideration, Tong believed that they could provide an integration of services. “Many people run cultural and creative business to sell products, but we aim to provide a more comprehensive shopping experience for both tourists and local residents. There aren’t many places where people can participate in cultural activities with sunlight, lake view and great food. Therefore, there’s huge room for us. When we look at successful tourist cities in other regions, we find that all of them aren’t simply selling products. Instead, it is shopping experience that helped them stand out. Through cultural activities, both local residents and tourists can better identify local culture, get involved and then bring something along with them,” Tong explained.
As Tong sees it, good infrastructure is also crucial in attracting a flow of customers. “For example, the government can provide timely traffic assistance, add more signs and posters in public space and, if possible, enhance their designs as best as they could. It’s up to the Cultural Affairs Bureau and the Tourism Office’s planning. The government can also include Nam Van Lakeside promenade when promoting the Macao Light Festival and develop this area as a comprehensive entertainment destination with sceneries, leisure and catering options, like Taipei’s Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf. The government has done a great job, but they could coordinate with business owners here better,” he added. Tong doesn’t want this project only to focus on profiting. He wants it to become a platform to help other cultural brands in Macao and creates a leisure destination for both local residents and tourists as well.
A good story is all that matters
When we were interviewing Wong, he mentioned that M Dimensions was just in the stage of retaining customers as well as cultivating brands and the public. “Currently, we are using different channels to promote our spaces to the outside world. It is our wishes that we could make ends meet with enough customer flows within half a year,” Wong said. When asked about the business space’s financial condition, Tong pointed out that people were getting more and more confident in the sector as more cultural and creative stores open up. “The government provides us with great support. But it’s another story whether we can achieve the level of production and revenue like that of the souvenir industry. Business runners who are able to maintain revenue enough to pay the rent and sustain operation perceive that the market is good for them. But, it still takes time for the production of the industry to multiply and becomes an important component of Macao’s GDP,” Tong said. In the future, they plan to shift from “B to C” model to “B to B” model, design and roll out more original products. They expressed that a nice appearance and practical use are the basic elements, but a good story, representing a concept, is all that matters.
Opening hour: 11am-10pm
Address: C/V-M1 (S2) & L1 (S3), Nam Van Lake Square (Anim’Arte Nam Van), No. 470-756, Avenida
Panorâmica do Lago Nam Van, Macao