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Malls of the future should make shopping cheaper

Shopping malls as we know them will in future become redundant as more people move to purchasing goods online, and office spaces will become smaller with companies adopting new approaches to increase flexibility and reduce costs, according to a property expert.

Wayne van der Vent, co-founder of Cape-Town-based online property brokers Quoin Online and the former head of the properties division at the Public Investment Corporation, said on Friday there was likely to be a radical shift in how shopping malls and office spaces were used in SA within the next 20 years.

Van der Vent said that shopping malls that would be developed in future could become spaces for eating and collecting goods, with more people transacting online. This could also make goods cheaper. Bricks and mortar shops have to pay rent and other bills, while online retailers can offer cheaper prices because they do not have a number of the overheads that shops in traditional shopping malls carry.

According to property market research firm Urban Studies, SA has more than 23-million square metres in shopping centre space, placing it seventh globally and ahead of all the countries in continental Europe, with another two-million square metres under construction or planned. Most recently, Mall of Africa in Johannesburg opened its doors. The R5bn centre will add 130,000m² of stores.

Van der Vent also said traditional offices would become a thing of the past, with most companies moving towards "hot desking", a system that involves several workers using a single physical work station at different time periods. Workplaces with rows of desks as we know them will, in time, become redundant, he said.

"We are already seeing shifts in how offices are being utilised…. In Cape Town, for example, with the traffic problem, it makes sense to allow people to work outside the office, from home or a coffee shop…. In future we will see a radical change in how office spaces are structured," said Van der Vent.

Van der Vent, who is in charge of strategy at Quoin Online, said the company had introduced various technologies that allowed buyers to compare the costs of running advertised properties in terms of electricity and water use, among others. Previously, the only information that a buyer would have had would be the bond and various other transaction fees, Van der Vent said.

The technologies are available for commercial property transactions, but Quoin Online plans to roll out the tools to the residential property sector by the end of the year, said Van der Vent.

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