Retail and retail property are among the most exciting and the most challenging property categories at the moment, according to Nomzamo Radebe, newly appointed president of the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC).
The council has almost 2 400 members and more than 1 600 delegates are attending the 19th annual congress which takes place in Durban this week.
“In order to survive we have to rethink retail and how to reinvent the industry,” she said at the opening of the congress. It is the largest congress of its kind in the property industry in SA and in Africa, according to Radebe and a platform to look at all the big issues in the industry.
“Happy customers mean happy retailers and that leads to happy shopping centres. That is why working with retailers is becoming more and more important.”
She pointed out that there are currently more than 2 000 shopping centres in South Africa and the country has in fact the 6th highest number of shopping centres in the world.
According to Robin Lockhart-Ross, managing executive of the property finance division of Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking, retail property has been the best performing category in the property world over the last decade – but also the most challenging.
Due to upheavals and confusion in the world regarding currencies, stock markets and economic pressure, there has been talk of the looming potential of an oversupply of retail space in SA, Lockhart-Ross cautioned.
At the same time, he said, ratings agencies always ask him when banks are going to stop funding shopping centres.
“I always answer that it will only happen when developers stop developing shopping centres and retailers stop signing long term leases,” he said.