Advice and Opinion

Getting the festive season right in shopping malls helps to drive retailer performance

Lucille Louw, Managing Director of Atterbury Asset Managers.


South Africa’s inland shopping malls could be in for pleasing festive season sales as a result of the country’s struggling economy, according to Managing Director of Atterbury Asset Managers, Lucille Louw. This is because fewer families can afford to take holidays this year.

Even so, Louw says malls in SA’s traditional coastal holiday destinations are still positioned to benefit most from the festive season spend, as the country’s disposable income holders migrate to the coastline of South Africa for their annual summer holiday.

Louw explains the festive season can be somewhat of a catch-22 for shopping centres. While they compete to attract as many shoppers as possible, the more people inside a mall, the shorter they stay and the less they spend.

“One of the biggest challenges over the holiday season is to ensure a festive atmosphere, but balancing this so malls don’t begin to feel too busy and overcrowded,” says Louw. “Malls that feel overfull become unpleasant for shoppers, who are likely to buy only what they came for, and not spend extra time browsing and making impulse buys.”

This means that malls are under pressure to get their festive attractions, entertainment and displays just right this year.

To avoid their shopping centres feeling overcrowded, Louw says Atterbury Asset Managers focus on offering longer shopping hours. This helps retailers to make the best of the festive season by trading longer. It also gives customers more, and more enjoyable, time to shop and spend.

“We use Christmas décor, rather than holiday activity programmes that take up precious mall floor space, to create a festive atmosphere,” says Louw.

Atterbury Asset Managers is responsible for the strategic management of assets across several prestigious property portfolios including those of Atterbury Property Holdings, Attacq, AttAfrica and Atterbury Europe. This includes leasing, marketing and investment strategies as well as retail mix and overseeing property managers, to maximise the value of assets.

Louw comments: “We were all hoping for the economy to start recovering by now, but it continues to struggle to show any growth. For retailers, 2015 has been a difficult year,”

In line with the trend throughout the rest of the year, Louw anticipates that 2015 festive season retail sales are likely to increase on last year, although only slightly.

However, on an upbeat note, Louw says: “The festive season always has a positive impact on retailers, not only because of increased sales, but also thanks to the positive outlook that retailers adopt at this time of year, stocking up and preparing for the festive season.”