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Retailers, malls should open longer to boost sales

| Economic factors

For retailers to make sales, their doors need to be open for longer, according to Marius Muller, CEO of shopping centre investor Pareto.

Modern South African lifestyles have changed, with a myriad of pressures resulting in many of us being time-poor and Muller believes the opening hours of many malls and retailers still lag behind the modern lifestyles of the consumers that support them.

“It’s time for this to change. It is important for malls and retailers to see the big picture when it comes to being open for shoppers. The times that many people can visit the shops have changed,” said Muller.  

Muller used Edcon as an example of having been a front-runner in keeping shoppers’ hectic schedules in mind and giving South Africans longer shopping hours.

“Edgars and Jet were often the only stores open in a mall, long after every other shop doors had closed,” said Muller.

Over the past decade or so, more retailers have responded to the change in modern lifestyles by extending their shopping hours, including Woolworths, Checkers, Pick n Pay and Mr Price. Muller added, however, that many malls and retailers still don’t fully appreciate the massive change in contemporary lifestyles.

He pointed out many regional shopping centres, which are among SA's largest and most popular malls, still have standard minimum shopping hours until an early 18:00.

"While that may have been pioneering 20 years ago, today it doesn’t make the cut for many consumers," said Muller.

“It simply isn’t a commercially minded model. Stores need to be open when shoppers can visit them,” says Muller.

There are many consumers who work unconventional hours, and those who only finish work later than what he calls "the outdated shopping hours". These people represent many groups from top executives and professionals to nursery school teachers and taxi-drivers.

Muller believes malls and retailers should be smarter about their shopping hours if they want to sustain and grow their sales, especially with the South African consumer under significant and mounting pressure.

“The point is that to make the sale, you need to be open for shoppers when they are able to shop,” he explained.

While Muller concedes it isn’t always feasible to stay open as late as 21:00, he is convinced that, with today’s modern lifestyles, closing before 19:00 isn’t in the best interest of most regional malls, retailers or shoppers.

“Being open later for shoppers doesn’t necessarily mean opening longer. It could mean opening the store a little later in the morning,” he explained.

Muller added that modern trading hours won’t necessarily be the same for all retailers and shopping centres.

“It’s a case of horses for courses. It comes down to knowing your customer, understanding how they live, work and play, and what times are most convenient for them to shop with you. It also means that retailers and malls need to work together to find their optimal opening times. This means being open to being open at different times, and trying new approaches,” said Muller.

“It means looking at the big picture, and the good news is that more and more retailers and malls are finally getting it.”

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