PROPERTY: Retail Sector Remains Positive, Says JHI
Recent Gauteng Business News
Despite the negative impact of the recession and the economic constraints experienced by consumers, confidence in the retail sector remains positive, reports Johan Engelbrecht, retail management director for JHI – a major property services company managing some R40 billion in assets in Africa.
According to Engelbrecht, JHI is experiencing a total capital investment of over R500 million in expansion projects for shopping centres under their management. Among others these include the extension of the Kolonnade Retail Park in Pretoria North with the introduction of a new Virgin Active as well as plans to increase the size of national retailers, eg Truworths, Foschini and Checkers stores. Another planned extension to accommodate a major anchor tenant in Greenstone shopping centre west of Edenvale CBD will further "enhance the centre's appeal" to shoppers, says Engelbrecht.
He says that while the recent festive season revealed a marginal increase in foot count and a reduction in discretionary spend on luxury goods, value retailers weathered the storm better than most, while fast food turnover was up. Clothing, textiles and shoes, and supermarkets achieved a fair performance over the previous year. "Interestingly at the Boardwalk shopping centre in Richards Bay, while foot count was down, spend per capita increased," says Engelbrecht. "This centre also saw an increase in fast food sales over the festive season."
Engelbrecht says along with concern as to Eskom's announced tariff hikes, a key focus is on managing utility expenditure to contain costs wherever possible. "The hotly-debated Eskom tariff increases are a major concern for landlords and tenants. The latter may be compelled to close their doors due to increased operating costs," comments Engelbrecht.
To curb utility costs, JHI is finally introducing energy-efficient LED lighting throughout their centres. Water saving measures, greening of tenant installations and solar-powered billboards and solar-powered lighting in parking areas are among the options investigated by JHI.
At this stage, these measures to reduce the carbon-footprint of lucrative shopping malls are only considered for some of the major centres managed by JHI. "In general there's a tendency among South Africans to still concentrate on lower cost options which are not always the greenest," reiterates Engelbrecht.
Due to the recent increase in mall robberies, shopping centre managers are paying more attention to improving security measures, such as CCTV and security guards. "Apart from the usual hi-tech equipment, we extend this even further in terms of vehicle patrols outside centre perimeters," says Engelbrecht. These security measures can only be successful "if shopping centre employees and all service suppliers - most importantly the security company employees - work closely together on all the preventative measures."
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