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Malls and retail reveal some positive festive trade, despite bleak forecasts for the season

| Economic factors

The South African Council of Shopping Centres says there was some welcome good news coming out of the country’s malls and retailers at the end of 2015, notwithstanding tough trading conditions in local markets.


Amanda Stops, CEO of SACSC, notes that recent figures from Statistics SA show retail sales increased at 3.9% year-on-year for November 2015. This is much higher than expected. Plus, updates from retailers themselves also reveal sales growth for the final months of the year, including Truworths, Woolworths, Massmart, The Foschini Group and Shoprite.

The council’s own review of festive trade taken from a sample of the country’s shopping centres shows a trend of growth in turnovers, despite shopper numbers generally remaining unchanged from 2014.

“Of course, there were outperformers that far outstripped this with significant growth in sales and shoppers. However, these were the exceptions and often the result of a major extension or upgrade taking place at a centre,” says Stops. “There were also some underperformers, mostly in communities particularly hard-hit by economic strife.”

Stops says the country’s shopping centres play and important role in the festive season and most worked hard to create a festive spirit for shoppers at the end of a tough year, serving up all the ingredients needed to support retailers’ sales and spread a little cheer among South Africa’s hard-pressed consumers.

“Many shopping centres began their year-end campaigns in November, dressing up in beautiful festive décor, helping shoppers by offering longer opening hours, presenting fun seasonal entertainment, offering big competition prizes and, of course, the all-time favourite attraction of photos with Father Christmas,” says Stops.

There were also many less glamourous preparations to ensure a pleasant shopping experience, even at the busiest times. This included increased cleaning, security and parking support. Fostering a safe festive season in places where many South Africans gather, there was also increased visible policing from the SAPS at shopping centres across the country.

Trends show South Africans left shopping to the very last minute, according to Stops. “The 23rd and 24th December were the busiest shopping days at many malls. However, several shopping centres, especially those in seaside cities, showed peak shopping and parking on Friday, 19 December,” she points out.

“Interestingly, some malls are also telling us the US retail phenomenon of Black Friday made a blip on sales charts at the end of November,” says Stops. “It was the first year the local retail sector took part in the retail event in any meaningful way, and it will be interesting to see if this trend continues in 2016.”

Stops reports the value for money and having an enjoyable experience were at the top of shoppers’ wish lists for the 2015 festive season.

Family and community were two strong themes at the country’s malls this festive season. “Many families get to enjoy precious time together during the holidays, so many shopping centres place a strong emphasis on providing attractions for children and adults of all ages to enjoy,” says Stops.

With the season being a time for giving, community projects are also at the heart of most shopping centres’ festive campaigns. “Many shopping centres partner with local charities for a gift-wrapping service to raise funds to boost good work in their communities, or collect gifts for the disadvantaged.”

The SACSC is the official umbrella body of all involved in shopping centres, including: owners, developers, managing agents, brokers, professionals, retailers, marketers, service providers, financiers and researchers. It was officially launched in 1991 to advance the retail and retail property sectors of South Africa.

SACSC promotes the interests of the sector, both in South Africa and internationally, while addressing issues and meeting challenges within the industry. It engages with associated sectors and other stakeholders on behalf of its members and highlights the role of shopping centres as a major resource for all communities in South Africa.

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