Malls' WiFi to draw teenagers

Posted On Wednesday, 18 December 2013 12:49 Published by
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Shopping centre developers are beginning to change the layout of malls to cater for shoppers' changing habits.

Pieter PrinslooRetail analysts say online shopping is increasingly competing with land-based shopping.

Despite this, there is appetite for malls in South Africa, according to the director of retail and leasing at Liberty Properties, Mel Urdang. "Throughout the country there has been demand for new malls," Mr Urdang says. "Some trends have meant that these malls have to cater for different things from the traditional set-up. These are things like more family activities, wireless frequency for cellphones and also giving attention to the shops which meet relatively high rent compared with those types of stores which do not."

Mr Urdang says intelligent developers will use advancements in technology to fill new malls with shoppers. "Soon all the major malls in SA will have WiFi. Then customers can use applications on their cellphones to be directed to the goods they want to buy. Also, many teenagers hang out in malls, but if they can use WiFi instead of expensive data bundles and pay less to surf the net in a mall, they will go to the mall," he says.

On Friday, Hyprop, SA's largest listed specialised shopping centre fund, announced the launch of high-speed WiFi at its malls in partnership with internet service provider MWEB. The initiative was launched at Canal Walk in Cape Town and will be rolled out across the shopping centre portfolio next year. This "complements Hyprop's other technology advancements such as mobile applications, and a presence on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The initiative will help improve the shopping experience by giving shoppers access to product and restaurant reviews while retailers can inform shoppers about specials and upcoming events," Hyprop CEO Pieter Prinsloo said. From the end of next month, shoppers would continue to have access to the internet and get the first 30 minutes WiFi access free. Hyprop has R22.5bn of assets under management, including 12 prime shopping centres.

While new retail offerings are being introduced to malls, some traditional retail is under threat. A good example is cinemas, a central part of traditional malls. "People love movies, but cinemas are struggling. They pay rent which is somewhat less than department stores could pay if given the space," says Redefine Properties CEO Marc Wainer. South African shoppers are "clothes crazy" and he expects malls to find space for more department stores.

"We love to buy clothes. Even people who fall into lower salary bands love to shop for designer labels. This means shops and facilities which take up too much competitive space will have to go."

Last modified on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 13:19

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