2017 was a tough year for retailers and shopping centres in South Africa. Many retailers had to close their doors and many more were on the brink of closure. Other disruptive forces towards the end of the year, such as rising fuel price and the ANC elective conference, also plagued the retail sector.

While many brands were battling, the shopping market still offered something unique to their customers over the festive season. Chief Economist for the Efficient Group, Dawie Roodt, said that more money was spent over the 2017 festive season compared to the rest of the year.

“Consumers spend more over the festive period – not because of improved circumstances but mostly because of factors such as better marketing and relatively low interest rates. New developments such as Black Friday have also contributed to the spending ‘binge’,” said Dawie.

While the past festive season was good, the rest of the year was quite dismal, adds Dawie. “The fundamental reason for this is simply weak economic growth that dampened job creation and wage increases.”

Thinking out of the box became the norm among shopping centres and retailers, with many stores and establishments offering extended shopping hours, entertainment, and babysitting solutions to keep kids busy while their parents shopped. Mall of Africa, for example, “brought the beach” to the Waterfall precinct. Families and children were entertained with authentic beach sand, pools and water slides. The shopping mall experienced a 9% increase in visitors compared to the previous year, said Head of Asset Management for Mall of Africa, Michael Clampett.

“We brought the beach to Waterfall during the December holidays. From 9 to 23 December, the park was transformed into a Summer playground with activities for children of all ages. More than 17 000 families visited the beach,” said Michael.

“Snow World”, which comprised ice slides and snow ramps, was a memorable feature at the Gateway Theatre of Shopping in Umhlanga last year.

“Shoppers were able to voyage into a world of snow for the first time in Durban, with ice slides, snow ramps, a snow play area, a chilling arctic chamber and realistic animals of the ice age expo, to name a few. Gateway’s Snow World was suitable for all ages and was open from 1 December 2017 to 14 January 2018 from 10am to 6pm daily. The activation was set up in the ex-Stuttafords premises and attracted over 55 000 shoppers,” said Michelle Shelley, Marketing Manager for Gateway.

These are only some of the ways that South African retailers and shopping centres continue to thrive during tough times. As many people in the design and built environment know – providing value will keep your customers happy at the end of the day.

For more information, contact SACSC on +27 (10) 003 0228 or via www.sacsc.co.za.

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