New trends on the way for shopping malls in South Africa

 ·10 Sep 2022

South African commercial property services company Broll Property Group and the South African Council of Shopping Centres have toured the United States looking for global shopping trends that could be applied to local malls.

The country’s shopping landscape has seen a significant shift over the last few years as Covid-19 and lockdown moved consumers toward more community-based and neighbourhood centres.

This has resulted in larger regional malls with vacant space and shifting tenants, necessitating a new approach to drawing shoppers back.

“While online shopping increased by about 38% during the pandemic, there is clear evidence that shoppers are back, the footfall is up, turnovers are higher, spend per head has increased, but a lot of this is happening in local shopping centres,” said Broll Property Group. “We believe this trend is here to stay.”

Shoppers are returning to South Africa’s big malls

According to Broll, while the US market is vastly different to South Africa – with the economic and employment realities being on opposite ends of the spectrum – there are many congruencies behind mall culture in both countries.

This opens local malls up to considering some of the trends being implemented at some of the busiest malls in the world – some of which are already being seriously considered.

Open-air malls

Broll said that open-air malls are very common in the US. In South Africa, while a few malls have implemented open-air features in their design, malls here tend to be closed off – likely more for security reasons.

However, one aspect that could be established locally is a focus on aesthetics and creating community spaces.

“Softening the landscape away from hard bricks and mortar towards more experiential retail experiences is also evidenced by the many art exhibitions, lounge areas, large outdoor sculptures and water features that abound, resulting in a good mix of nature and the built environment,” Broll said.

“This ensures shopping centres become destination venues and not just places to shop. With people working from home during the pandemic, mall managers invested significantly in enhancing the look and feel of malls to encourage people to linger. Of course, after an hour or so of lounging around, people will spend money.”

Broll said South African shopping centres are under pressure to prove viability and make returns, so they don’t have a lot of common areas. They also tend to focus on function rather than form.

Getting pet friendly

Broll said that a key trend in major malls overseas is making them pet-friendly spaces.

“While there are several parks and outdoor venues people can take their pets to in South Africa, not many centres are pet friendly. This is definitely a trend that we are currently looking into,” it said.

“We have begun to identify shopping centres that we believe can accommodate pets with in-store grooming parlours, pet menus at eateries that welcome dogs at their tables.”

Pop-up shops

To fill the empty space left by tenants who were unable to survive the pandemic, one of the centres in Los Angeles collaborated with several local designers, giving them each a space and rack to display their merchandise, Broll said.

This proved to be highly successful, the group said, suggesting that this could be cultivated in South Africa.

With small businesses being the backbone of South Africa’s economy, Broll said the focus on providing more entrepreneurs with an opportunity to sell their products in bricks and mortar spaces is important.

“A notable difference between South Africa and the United States in their approach to pop-up stores is that pop-up store installations in some United States centres are financed to ensure they adhere to the overall look and feel of the centre. The idea is also to view the pop-up entrepreneurs as the tenants of the future and give them a boost.

“In South Africa, you know a pop-up when you see it,” it said.


One trend that South Africa already has a jump on is sustainability and energy saving. The realities of load shedding have already forced many malls to investigate alternative energy generation like solar – while recent changes to regulations will allow them to explore these avenues even further.

However, Broll said that the sustainability initiatives could go further, such as using hand paper towels and toilet paper that are produced of ‘brown paper’, and also making greater strides with recycling.

Read: New R500 million shopping mall to open this month

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