The receptionist at Mall of Africa’s centre management office has her hands full, answering a deluge of incoming calls that are distracting her from tending to the growing queue at the newly-minted reception.
Patient callers are asking about retailers that have already set up shop at the sparkling-new mall nestled in the Waterfall precinct along the N1 near Midrand, north of Johannesburg.
Those steadfast in the queue want a piece of Mall of Africa, and enquire about the available retail space to open new shops. In a gentle manner, the receptionist tells potential tenants: “We are fully let”.
After seven days of trade at South Africa’s largest single-phase mall to be built from scratch, there is still hype about the 131 000 square metre mall. Although scenes of the mall being chock-a-block with eager shoppers have tapered off, it’s still drawing a healthy crowd.
On its opening day on April 28, Mall of Africa recorded about 124 000 visitors and days later on average 40 000 visitors per day still frequent it.
The question then is, what is all the hype about? Apparently a number of things, says Michael Clampett, the retail fund asset and property manager at Attacq Limited (which owns the R5 billion mega-mall with Atterbury Property).
The mall, which boasts 300 shops, has some international firsts for the country, such as Zara Home, French brand The Kooples, Scandinavian sports apparel brand Helly Hansen, Armani Exchange and Spanish lingerie, sleepwear and swimwear brand Women’secret. These are in addition to a slew of international fashion retailers that already have a wide presence in South Africa such as River Island, Mango, Zara, Versace, Forever New and Cotton On.
The latter retailer occupies about 3 200 square metres at Mall of Africa, making it the largest Cotton On store in the world.
But the largest tenant is Woolworths occupying a 10 000 square metre two-level store, which is nearly the size of Bryanston Shopping Centre in Johannesburg at 11 560 square metres. Other local tenants include Checkers Hyper, Edgars, Jet, Game among others.
Taking the shine
Mall of Africa comes at a time when the country is seeing a glut of new shopping malls that are taking the shine away from existing ones.
Stanlib’s head of listed property funds Keillen Ndlovu says it will be interesting to see how Mall of Africa trades, given its massive size and the timing of its opening in a slowing economic growth environment.
“The mall will likely take some shoppers from major centres such as Centurion Mall, Sandton City and Fourways Mall. One thing for sure, Mall of Africa is likely to be the biggest mall opening we will see for years or decades to come in South Africa,” says Ndlovu.
Clampett says it’s yet to be determined where Mall of Africa is drawing its shoppers from.
Shopping malls that have recently opened their doors in Gauteng include the 65 000 square metre Mall of the South in Aspen Hills, Glenvista; the 73 900 square metre Forest Hill Mall in Centurion and the 76 000 square metre Cradlestone Mall in Krugersdorp on the West Rand.
Recently, listed property heavyweight Growthpoint Properties and blue-chip mall owner Hyprop Investments admitted that they are seeing lower trading densities (sales per square metre) at some of their malls. This is due to the new malls that have recently come on stream.
Growthpoint, which owns malls such as Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront (together with the Public Investment Corporation), Festival Mall in Johannesburg and Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria, saw its trading densities decrease to 4% to R2 700 per square metre per month for the six months to December 31 2015. In recent years, it achieved trading densities of up to 7%.
CEO Norbert Sasse says the Mall of the South opening put pressure on its Alberton City Shopping Centre and Matlosana Mall’s roof wetting in Klerksdorp affected its CBD shopping centre. “If you add a couple of new malls into the mix, with the macro environment growing at a slow pace, then the total spend by consumers gets diluted across the new pools of centres,” says Sasse.
Also feeling the pinch from Mall of the South is Hyprop, with its The Glen Shopping Centre, south of Johannesburg being impacted. Says CEO Pieter Prinsloo: “Trading densities at The Glen were under pressure. We experienced the impact from October.”
Mall of Africa expansion
At a later stage, Attacq might expand Mall of Africa by adding an additional 30 000 square metres of retail space. Clampett says the shopping mall might be expanded in a year, but also warns that it will be entirely based on the demand from tenants.
Assuming that Attacq does expand Mall of Africa to 161 000 square metres, it will then become the largest shopping mall in the country. According to South African Council of Shopping Centres 2015 directory, the Gateway Theatre of Shopping in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal is currently the largest shopping mall at 150 320 square metres.