With South Africa’s biggest consumer holiday in full swing and just days to go before Christmas, South Africa’s malls are upping the ante to lure shoppers.
With increased competition between malls to attract holiday spenders, giveaways and specials are no longer enough to get feet through the door, say analysts.
Now malls are upping the ante, from slashing their paid parking fees to offering confused Christmas shoppers a hand-picked shortlist of “that perfect gift” via e-mail.
“Indications are that the downturn in the economy and the increase in the number of malls is changing marketing attitudes among malls,” said marketing analyst Chris Moerdyk.
Free parking was one “massive enticement”, said Moerdyk, adding that customers were less concerned about the cost of parking than the fact that they were having to pay for the privilege of shopping.
“As competition increases, malls will have to start looking for more points of differentiation and while the retail [tenant] mix is critically important, the difference between two similar malls will be in the detail with which they are seen to be caring for their customers,” he said.
At one of the country’s newest super-regional malls, Port Elizabeth‘s R1.7 billion Baywest Mall, shoppers are now able to phone or email in their gift quandary. Marketing head Samantha Hewitson said the mall’s mygiftfinder offering was aimed at helping confused Christmas gift shoppers.
The mall is a joint venture between SA developer heavyweights Billion Group and Abacus Asset Management.
“Shoppers can send details to email@example.com about the person they are looking for a gift for, telling us their age, gender, interests, and what the budget for the gift is. Then we scour our stores for a shortlist of three items, which we send back to the shopper. Once they have a favourite, we set it aside for them to come and pay for and collect,” said Hewitson.
The mall has also spent big on Christmas décor, setting up the tallest Christmas tree in the province along with a winter nativity theme, with winter wonderland-themed décor throughout the rest of the 90,000m² mall.
“For us it has been about striving to offer shoppers something unique, which will enhance their experience of Baywest and develop a brand loyalty,” said Hewitson.
In Mthatha, the former Transkei’s newest super-regional mall, BT Ngebs City – which was opened by Billion Group in June – has upped vehicle security by introducing anti-theft technology. The mall itself has also been transformed in a Christmas wonderland with Santa’s grotto for children, and a pianist reciting carols for shoppers.
Two other Billion Group malls – Hemingways in East London and Forest Hill in Centurion – have, in line with Moerdyk’s suggestion, dropped their parking rates, offering free parking Mondays to Thursdays for two hours and 90 minutes respectively.
Forest Hill is meanwhile taking advantage of the African Christmas heat to bring in more shoppers, by setting up a wave pool at the mall for teenagers to boogie board the day away.
Billion Group marketing head Deborah Bailey said the company was finding creative ways at enhancing shopper experiences at their various malls throughout the country.
“We have found that by going the extra mile and engaging our shoppers, offering them a better shopping experience, that we are building a brand loyalty which will stand us in good stead going forward,” said Bailey. “We are already seeing it paying dividends at our various malls in terms of increased foot traffic.”
Moerdyk said malls which chose to ignore their shoppers would pay dearly.
“My research shows that most big retail chains are losing 10 to 12% of additional turnover by allowing shoppers to leave stores unhappy,” he said. “So far big retailers have been spoilt in South Africa due to lack of competition and consumer apathy, but things are changing fast.”
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