Good news for shopping malls in South Africa

 ·27 Oct 2022

Research company Eighty20 has published its analysis of the performance and foot traffic of shopping malls in post-pandemic South Africa.

Eighty20 looked into seven shopping centres stretched across Cape Town, Joburg and Durban and found that they had a significant recovery post-Covid-19 in both footfall and time spent in malls.

The group analysed the number of visitors and the time spent in the following malls:

  • Sandton City
  • Mall of Africa
  • Fourways
  • Gateway
  • Menlyn
  • The Pavillion
  • Canal Walk

Andrew Fulton, a director at Eighty20, found that during the lockdown, foot traffic in these malls decreased by upwards of 80% to 90% – with Sandton City being hit the hardest. For malls that used to see average traffic of 1.5 million visitors a month, this decreased by 1.2 million.

Foot traffic metrics have been increasing since the beginning of this year, with Liberty Two Degrees (L2D), a real estate investment trust, reporting that customer visits to its malls – of which Sandton Mall is one –  in April 2022 were up 14.6% when compared to April 2019.

Shoppers are returning to South Africa’s big malls

Eighty20 reported all seven of the malls have now recovered and even exceeded pre-pandemic footfall numbers.

Despite this, it took until the third quarter of 2021 for most malls to reach pre-lockdown visitor volumes, said Eighty20. Gauteng’s Sandton and Fourways Mall have the best recovery compared to the others.

Despite there being more people returning to malls, the amount of time spent in malls has not recovered to previous levels – dropping between 65% and 85% during the lockdown.

Canal Walk in the Western Cape came the closest out of the other malls in reaching pre-pandemic benchmarks at the beginning of the year at a 99% recovery.

According to Fulton, this finding supports other assessments conducted by Eighty20 that showed that shoppers in South Africa have become far more focused and deliberate in their shopping missions, spending less time browsing.

“People tend to go into the store, get what they need, and get out quickly to avoid lengthy contact with other shoppers,” noted Fulton. “The closing of cinemas, the shift to more online shopping and the rise of grocery delivery services are other likely contributors to decreased dwell time.”

Who’s still going to the mall?

In terms of the demographics of those visiting and shopping at malls across the country, Eighty20 found that the wealthiest segments, including middle-class workers, heavy hitters and comfortable retirees, all visited Sandton City.

Fourways showed the largest number of LSM 10 (very wealthy) shoppers, said Eighty20.

“Canal Walk is the chosen destination for the Mass Credit Market and reflects the demographics of South Africa best, with more LSM 6 shoppers than LSM 10 shoppers. Gateway and Pavilion are also similar in this respect.”

Nearly 37% of Sandton City shoppers earn more than R20,000 per month in personal income, said Fulton. For Pavilion and Canal Walk, only a quarter of shoppers earn that much.

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