Some store spaces still empty as mall turns two
As Baywest Mall approaches its second birthday next month, the management is still working towards achieving the perfect tenant mix.
While six stores closed their doors in the past year, with the mall at a 91% occupancy rate, Baywest and the SA Council of Shopping Centres (SACS) said this was not concerning, as the empty stores were strategic vacancies.
The chairman of the Eastern Cape chapter of SACS, Marios van Dongen, said super-regional malls like Baywest take at least five years to settle into the correct tenant mix.
“With every regional mall there is a lot of movement for the first few years for a number of reasons,” he said.
“These malls need to have the correct tenant mix and this usually takes time.
“You cannot just be desperate to fill those vacant stores with anything as this will damage your existing tenants.”
Deborah Bailey, group marketing manager of mall owner Rebosis Property Fund, said a super-regional mall would rarely be 100% tenanted, as stores moved in and out due to factors beyond the mall’s control.
She said stores like Express and Tom Tailor – part of the Edcon Group – had closed, not because of anything to do with Baywest, but due to factors linked to those franchises nationally.
“Additionally, the size of Baywest means it is likely to attract greater attention,” Bailey said.
“With up to 250 stores, there are a greater number of stores opening and closing than might be the case at smaller shopping centres.
“Sadly, six stores closed their doors at Baywest last year, but 14 new stores opened.”
Van Dongen said on average it took some malls five years to achieve the correct mix of tenants that was not detrimental to existing tenants.
Bailey said: “We have strategic vacancies to let and we are constantly in discussions with key brands around those vacancies.
“It is important that we create a tenant mix of local, regional and national brands which complement all our tenants.
“If we relax our standards and fill our available space with tenants that do not fit our strategic mix of brands, it would harm our existing outlets.”
She said Rebosis Property Fund had always strived to be a responsible landlord.
“Striving for a perfect tenant mix, we have earmarked specific brands, which is why there are some vacant boxes, and that supports our leasing strategy,” Bailey said.
“Any successful mall requires a tenant mix which complements all tenants.
“This does mean that we turn away potential tenants on the basis that they are not ideal.
“We require a tenant mix which generates the highest sales per square metre, which does not cannibalise existing tenants and offers value to our customers.”
She said the mall had brought exciting new brands to the region, covering entertainment, dining and retail and had created direct employment for up to 2 000 residents.
“This excludes the downstream economic benefits which the mall provides for the service providers working with our tenants,” Bailey said.
She said the mall had seven million visitors last year, including out-of-towners from up to Plettenberg Bay and Grahamstown.
“These shoppers previously visited the Bay intermittently, but the mall provides a unique shopping and entertainment destination to warrant them travelling more frequently,” Bailey said.
“Furthermore, they don’t just stop in at the mall but also conduct business elsewhere in the city, meaning that other businesses benefit from our presence.
“Given our growth in spend per head – up 21% year-on-year amid consistent foot traffic – and the increase in total sales for the mall, up 16% year-on-year, we feel Baywest is performing well amid a challenging economic environment.”