COVID-19

South African luxury mall navigates the return to in-person shopping

ish Mafundikwa Nov 26, 2021
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Shoppers walk by the Nelson Mandela statue at Sandton City in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2010. When the pandemic began, all nonessential stores at the luxury shopping center were forced to close. Gianluigi Guercia via Getty Images
COVID-19

South African luxury mall navigates the return to in-person shopping

ish Mafundikwa Nov 26, 2021
Heard on:
Shoppers walk by the Nelson Mandela statue at Sandton City in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2010. When the pandemic began, all nonessential stores at the luxury shopping center were forced to close. Gianluigi Guercia via Getty Images
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Sandton City is a luxury shopping complex in Johannesburg, South Africa, with 350 shops and 150 offices. When the pandemic began, the government ordered the closure of all but essential retailers at the complex.

Now, local and international shoppers are back at Sandton City. They wear masks as mandated by the government, and there is hand sanitizer at every store entrance.

Preston Gaddy manages Sandton City and the adjoining Nelson Mandela Square for his company Excellerate JHI. He said some shops did not survive the enforced closure. “We saw tenants that were marginal even before COVID closing. It was, unfortunately, the final straw for some of these struggling tenants.”

Excellerate offered discounts to some tenants who defaulted, he said. But Gaddy said there is rarely a shortage of retailers that want to locate here, and there is also movement within the complex.

“For this year, we’ll have introduced 60 – six zero – new offerings at Sandton City,” he said. “That’s not only new tenancies, but it’s tenants that revamped, expanded, relocated to better locations, et cetera.”

One regular Sandton City shopper, Zinhle Sibanda, said she missed coming out to meet her friends during the pandemic closures.

“It’s a great thing that malls are open now,” she said. “I wish we could find a way to make sure everybody’s safe. “

She was also excited Sandton City is open ahead of the holiday season. “This is a time when you are probably in the mall most.”

Complex manager Gaddy said online shopping increased during the pandemic — but that has limitations, and consumers are coming back for the in-store experience.

“Shopping online, you’ve got to wait three days, two days, or maybe same-day delivery, but you are not gonna get that same buzz,” he said.

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