Are super regional malls still relevant in SA?

Although super regional shopping malls - defined as malls with a gross leasable area of more than 74 000 square metres - are seen as major contributors to South Africa’s retail industry, there has been a significant decline in footfall.

This has coincided with sharp growth in smaller convenience and lifestyle centres in SA, Chuck Muller, managing director of Shopper Behaviour Research said.

Muller was speaking at the annual congress of the SA Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) taking place in Durban this week. He raised the question of whether the country's 11 super regional shopping centres were still relevant.

Consumer surveys done by Muller found that consumers go to super regional shopping centres primarily for general shopping, fashion purchases, family entertainment and “me time”. They are seen as a one-stop shop which meets the needs of consumers across all income groups when they are undertaking an outing.

The majority of shoppers surveyed want to be able to relax and be entertained at a super regional mall. They expect the mall to provide them with free entertainment.

Middle income shoppers

He said the research shows that super regional malls remain important for grocery shopping among middle income consumers in SA. This kind of shopping is done mostly at the end of the month.

On the other hand, there appears to be a decline in higher income groups using super regional shopping centres for grocery shopping. Muller said these higher income groups are likely increasingly buying groceries online or from convenience centres.

“The economy is having a big impact on consumers. Fuel price increases impact their ability to travel to regional shopping centres – whether in private vehicles or by public transport,” said Muller.

“Unemployment also impacts people’s ability to go and shop.”

Furthermore, it is not just online shopping taking business away from super regional malls, but also technology enabling people to do online banking and online payments.

They do not need to go to a mall to visit a bank anymore. The same goes for entertainment. They do not have to go to a mall to see a movie. They can now do it “on demand” in the convenience of their own homes, he said.

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