Jingle tills at Liberty Mall

2009-12-19 00:00

LIBERTY MIDLANDS MALL has bucked the national retail trend and is in the midst of a bumper festive season shopping rush as local shoppers flock to the anchor regional centre, spending significantly more than they did last year.

According to the national statistics of Investment Pro­perty Database’s (IPD), which compares the Midlands complex to malls of a similar size (53 000m²), Liberty Midlands Mall’s average foot count for the third quarter of 2009 was a whopping 51% higher than the IPD national average.

The mall’s average third quarter spend per head was 16% higher than the IPD average.

In addition, the mall’s trading density (the gross lettable area divided by turnover) was three percent higher than the national IPD average in the third quarter of 2009.

Collective turnover at the mall between January and October 2009 was 6,6% higher year on year.

The foot count for December 2009 as at the16th was 2,5% higher year on year.

The findings come as retailers across the country grapple with softer consu­mer spending.

Liberty Midlands Mall’s centre manager, Cassy Fourie, told Weekend Witness that the mall remains a favoured destination for families, particularly during the holiday season.

She noted that although the mall has performed well, 2009 has been a challenging year.

“We have seen a change in spending patterns as most retailers saw customers tending toward stores that provided necessities. Customer service became a key factor.

“There have been casualties during the recession, mainly with regard to the independent traders. There have been new store owners in this sector as ownership has changed hands.

“We’ve been fortunate in that currently we have three vacancies and we have a waiting list of potential tenants,” Fourie said.

Fourie added that although restaurants have taken strain, December has proved to be a better month.

“What is also interesting is that we have felt the Christmas rush taking place earlier this year compared to previous years.

“We had expected the opposite … but we felt the impact at the beginning of November.”

A variety of tenants at the mall have experienced robust trading.

Brett Beckett, owner of the upmarket clothing store, The Company Man’s Shop, said that although money is “tighter” this year, he has noticed an increase in spend per head.

“Customers are purchasing top- quality items of clothing,” he said.

THE South African retail sector has had a difficult two years, with the slide setting in during early 2008. According to economists, harsh conditions in the job market, low incomes and the impact of tight lending criteria continue to constrain consumer spending. Retail sales declined by 6,2% year on year in October 2009 as durable and semi-durable goods, including “hardware, paint and glass” and “household furniture, appliances and equipment” recorded massive declines.

“Current monetary policy aims to reduce the pressure on disposable income of consumers by keeping interest rates relatively low for the last couple of months … Weaker consumer confidence and lower interest rates will only add momentum to the current trend where households are using additional funds to pay off debt …” noted Efficient Group economist Merina Willemse.

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