Firm growth at Mall

2008-04-22 00:00

Pietermaritzburg’s anchor retail venue, Liberty Midlands Mall, has recorded firm growth over the first two months of this year, with year-on-year turnover growth in excess of 15% for January and February combined.

Although the mall’s foot-count figures rose 6,1% year on year in February — usually a "quiet month" — growth is expected to soften over the next year due to a slowdown in general consumer demand following the effects of higher interest rates and rising inflation.

According to the recently appointed manager of Liberty Midlands Mall, Sharon Swain, the mall has performed relatively well when compared with other retail centres within the giant Liberty group.

She is expecting growth to settle at more realistic levels due to the general consumer slowdown.

"The pinch will come, but probably only later on. We have some real challenges, but the key is to provide a great product and excellent service as a differentiation in tough times."

In this regard, Swain and her team will embark on an intensified events and promotions campaign.

Swain stressed the importance of a retailer’s ability to convert the mall’s impressive foot-count into sales revenue.

She noted that the mall’s strength lies in its ability to draw loyal customers from across the region, including Pietermaritzburg, the midlands, northern KZN and the Richmond area.

Swain noted that phase two of the mall has performed well thus far, adding that spend-per-head — as opposed to foot-count — has been the main driving force.

On the issue of load shedding, Swain said the mall has not suffered as greatly as centres in Gauteng.

She said they have embarked on a variety of measures aimed at reducing electricity demand, including the widespread use of energy-saving light-bulbs.

Air-conditioners are being switched on and off at different times and lights in the parking areas are being switched on slightly later in the evenings. In addition, the geysers in the bathrooms have been switched off in an effort to reduce electricity usage.

The group are also researching the roll-out of large-scale alternative energy sources, but this measure may only come to fruition in the long-term future.

Meanwhile, the mall is in the process of planning a social responsibility campaign aimed at lending support to orphaned children, children with disabilities and child-headed households.

kavith@witness.co.za

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