Tenants at new Umhlanga R3bn mall cry foul

2017-03-06 10:15
The Gateway Health store at the Pearls Mall in Umhlanga. (Pearls Mall website)

The Gateway Health store at the Pearls Mall in Umhlanga. (Pearls Mall website)

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Durban – Umhlanga's new R3bn Pearls Mall project is in danger of becoming a "white elephant", its tenants say.

Tenants have accused mall management of failing to market the shopping centre, leaving them with a huge loss in potential revenue – just two months after its opening.

"It still looks like a construction site. I am making only a third of what I make in my other stores elsewhere and some tenants are not even covering their rentals.

"Despite poor sales and construction going on, the mall's management refuses to negotiate lower rentals or do anything to drive feet into the centre," said one tenant who did not want to be named.

"This is a result of greedy landlords who put tenants in while the building is still under construction and tenants are now suffering."

Several other tenants echoed the same frustrations.

Headed by media tycoon Anant Singh, the centre was touted as a boutique mall offering high-end living and shopping with residential apartments and some of the country's biggest brands as its tenants.

'Comprehensive marketing campaign'

Director Sudhir Pragjee disputed the tenants' allegations when approached by News24 for comment. Pragjee said management had an "excellent" rapport with tenants. He also said management was happy with the response the mall's opening had received so far.

He called on those who were not happy to come forward and engage with management to resolve their concerns.

"The opening of the mall was supported with a R1m marketing and promotional campaign with an official opening scheduled for the end of March," he said.

"Being only 11 weeks old, we are satisfied with the positive response we have had so far and have experienced a steady flow of patrons to both the retail stores and restaurants and are confident that these numbers will continue to grow as more people become familiar with the mall and everything it offers."

Pragjee said there was a "comprehensive marketing campaign" in place to promote the mall and its tenants.

"Our overall marketing plan integrates social media together with public relations, and a variety of other targeted campaigns. We have had encouraging feedback from many tenants who advised us that they are already exceeding their sales budgets," said Pragjee.

Manager's suitability questioned

News24 visited the mall recently and a coffee shop employee was seen walking around, trying to drum up sales for a cup of coffee with an offer of a second cup for free. Sale signs were displayed on most stores as staff stood chatting outside.

"Business is bad. We need to know how many feet are coming through the doors, because we are all desperately having sales to try and make money," said one irate tenant.

"It's not happening. What also concerns some of us is the calibre of the centre manager. She was headhunted from Bloemfontein, worked as a cleaning manager and has less than five years of experience in a mall.

"This is a proudly KZN, BEE project, why are we not employing someone from this province to manage this mall? I don't believe they could not find suitable talent here."

Pragjee defended the appointment, saying the centre manager, Yolande Mattison, met the criteria. He would not be drawn into questions around foot traffic in the centre, saying only that management was satisfied with the mall's progress so far.

Read more on:    durban  |  retail

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