As increasing global attention focuses on developing countries in Africa and as growth on existing business tends to be muted, an ongoing trend is for retailers to expand into the continent in order to increase their number of stores and turnover, says Gielie Visser, who has just been appointed director: retail strategy for JHI Properties, focusing on Africa.
“Developers are seeking out opportunities in stable economies where they can make sound returns and when you can still offer US Dollar transactions, even better,” he says. “Developments on the continent are increasing in size and sophistication, which is not surprising given the size of the market.”
“There remains scope to promote sometimes simple innovations such as LED lighting and energy efficient design. The challenge is to sell such concepts in the context of long term cost saving and not just the responsible thing to do. Our aim is to become involved in developments right from the outset and guiding the decision-making process in a responsible way. There are also great opportunities to do simple things better, for example, sometimes it is more important to have skilled staff and clean toilets than the very latest in European fashion,” says Visser.
Visser has considerable experience in the retail property arena, having over the past 20 years held various managerial and senior executive positions with PEP Stores, Shoprite Checkers Properties, Investec Properties and Cash Bazaar Holdings in Botswana. While consulting to Cash Bazaar Holdings he was involved in sourcing retail opportunities in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. He was national retail manager at Broll Properties and a development manager at Edcon.
A member of Excellerate Property Services (EPS), JHI Properties is already well established in Africa. Over and above the 300 shopping centres managed in South Africa, JHI manages and/or provides leasing facilities for a number of shopping centres, high street retail buildings and mixed-use assets with retail components in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Ghana, Nigeria, Lesotho, Kenya and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These include the management of large shopping centres such as Levy Business Park (27 500sqm) and Arcades Shopping Centre (18 400sqm) in Zambia and Oshakati Shopping Centre in Namibia (25 000sqm), the second phase of leasing of Gables Shopping Centre (25 000sqm) in Swaziland and working in conjunction with McCormick Property Development on the leasing of the Mall of Mozambique (45 000sqm) in Matola and Mall of Tete (14 500sqm) – both in Mozambique and Mall of Zimbabwe (51 000sqm) in Harare.
With a project team for Africa comprising seven highly skilled and experienced development and project managers, JHI Properties is also involved in a variety of development projects in Africa, including acting as development and project managers for an Innscor retail outlet in the DRC.
Says Marna van der Walt, CEO of EPS: “Our ongoing strategy is to continue to increase our presence and activities in the retail property management sector on the African continent and we are committed to securing the best strategic retail letting skills in the region. Because of the significant scale of property already under management, JHI can offer cost effective services with the highest quality over a broad range of property related disciplines.”