This is the question that my two colleagues and I have been grappling with since the beginning of the year when we first received our thesis topic. Our minds were instantly filled with ideas about the impact e-commerce will have on the retail sector. Do people like shopping online? Is it more expensive? Will shopping centres become irrelevant due to this new way of purchasing goods and services from the comfort of your own home? If so, which types of centres will be impacted the most? How will that affect the size and layout of space in retail stores?
Sounds interesting, right? Yes, we think so too. And the journey to unravelling this issue has been more than enlightening. We got to sit across from some of South Africa’s most renowned property experts and debated this issue for hours. Some of the themes that emerged included the type of consumers that we have in South Africa, how accessible the internet is nationwide, and how shopping centres can maintain, and improve on, their foot traffic count by integrating online shopping with their physical space.
If you are an investor, and a part of your portfolio includes shopping centres, then you can breathe easy. Our research revealed that shopping centres, no matter the type, are still very much useful and relevant in South Africa, despite the increasing use of online shopping. Retailers are slowly creating an online presence by opening online stores and allowing consumers to browse through their digital catalogues. Shopping centre managers are aware that consumers at times buy goods online, but are really not threatened by it. In fact, they welcome it. Lastly, consumers hold all the cards as they are the driving force behind the creation of more and more online stores.
I should add, however, that this research has its limitations, but for the most part, the view is that online shopping (or e-tailing from the retailer’s perspective) is more of an opportunity than a threat to shopping centres in South Africa.
About the Author:
Takudzwa Madzingira is currently pursuing her Honours degree in Property Studies at the University of Cape Town. Her specific area of interest is commercial and retail property. She is excited about the prospect of finally entering the property industry and enhancing her knowledge from first hand experience as she begins her career after years of studying.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Property Wheel