African Design Magazine November 2016 - Page 84

In the fiercely competitive South African retail sector, mall developers are upping the ante to include a high-tech, interactive shopping environment in a bid to lure shoppers to their centres for longer. This is one of the strongest indications that technology – specifically Internet access – is in fact facilitating bricks and mortar retail development, rather than hampering it through the rise of online shopping platforms, according to leading national developers Abacus Asset Management. I n addition to acclaim for several malls in its portfolio*, Abacus recently scooped the top honours for its mixed-use retail development in Johannesburg, Dainfern Square, at the SA Council of Shopping Centres’ (SACSC) annual Retail Design and Development Awards. The company says that although the days of building new mega malls are numbered, there is a rise in demand for “mixeduse destination retail developments”, ranging between 15 000m² and 25 000m², which cater to high living standards measure (LSM) shoppers. Digital drive With online shopping in South Africa accounting for just 1% of total retail spend, landlords are incorporating a greater digital experience than ever before into new retail developments, according to Abacus managing director Gavin Blows. “At first free Wi-Fi was the limit to which developers were willing to spend on digital platforms in their centres, but now multiple platforms are emerging in new developments,” said Blows. This includes high-tech features such as a central digital management system which governed a mall’s website, mobile app, Wi-Fi offering and linked to Bluetooth location beacons throughout the centre. “This allows the mall’s management and marketing team to have a coordinated, meaningful engagement with their shoppers,” he said. “The enhanced experience also has a positive effect on shoppers’ dwell times, which in turn increases turnover for the mall.” Case study To this end, the company introduced a full fibre optic backbone and unique Bluetooth beacon location technology to Baywest Mall when it opened in June 2015. This has enabled shoppers to interact directly with brands and stores at the mall via a multiplatform Baywest Mall smartphone application, said Blows. The move was made possible thanks to a partnership between Abacus and Skybird Technologies, which is tasked with driving the “digital vision” of new Abacus developments. “In addition, we have entered into a national partnership with Vodacom, which will light the fibre and provide FTTB [fibre to the business] services for tenants in our new developments,” said Blows. More and more landlords were becoming savvy by implementing Bluetooth technology and Wi-Fi capabilities into developments, he said. “The digital platform is the new tenant in the mall. We don’t expect online shopping to impact massively on retail developments. Online shopping will be used more as a reference point, with the majority of shoppers preferring to enter the physical retail environment.” 84 The future The future for retail development in South Africa lies in high-quality offerings in high LSM areas – malls just larger than convenience centres, ranging from 15 000m² to 25 000m² in size – said Blows. Such developments were not just retail-orientated, but also offered health and lifestyle components, mixed with high-end office space, he