Tough year fails to mar festive spend

Brushing off a roller coaster financial year, consumers bucked festive season spending expectations and flocked to the Eastern Cape’s biggest malls.

Despite ratings downgrades, political upheaval, falling consumer confidence and a dramatic drop in economic growth , malls in the province reported a successful 2017/18 festive trading season, with an increase in mall gift card purchases being a stand-out trend for the season.

Lindsay Steele, marketing manageress for Baywest Mall in Port Elizabeth, said: “The mall had a very positive festive season, with foot traffic growing steadily compared with the same period last year.

“Our shopping and entertainment offerings attracted holidaymakers and residents alike. The ice rink was continuously busy, while our Ster-Kinekor cinemas – including IMAX and Cinema Prestige – drew more moviegoers than last year.”

Steele said while the mall’s stores had traded well, a shift towards centre vouchers had been noted.

“Shoppers were keen to give the gift of choice and purchases of our mall gift card showed remarkable growth,” Steele said.

Trade at Hemingways Mall in East London, according to the centre’s marketing manager Estee Roos, was exceptional.

“Hemingways Mall experienced a truly exceptional holiday season. Feet through the mall and consumer spending increased,” Roos said.

“The extra time to shop, dine and play was well received by our secondary target market – the annual influx of tourists to East London. Accordingly, the mall’s leisure offering of 15 restaurants, gaming and movies enjoyed good trade.”

Commenting on trade at BT Ngebs City Shopping Centre, which is one of Mthatha’s biggest malls, general manager Lolo Sabisa said new retail and leisure additions to the centre had had a positive effect on customer numbers there this festive season.

“The foot traffic at BT Ngebs City remained fairly constant this festive season, despite a tough and competitive trading environment.”

“Our customer car count shows growth,” Sabisa said.

Walmer Park in Port Elizabeth also recorded positive trading conditions and results, along with increased foot traffic through the season.

“Considering the pressure that retail has been under during 2017, we are happy with the overall results from the festive season trading period. The Walmer Park Festive Season essentially kicked off with Black Friday on November 24 where record sales figures from most tenants were reported and increased foot traffic throughout the centre was experienced,” spokeswoman for the centre Claire Roberts said.

Roberts also reported a substantial increase in gift card sales compared with December 2016, adding that an upswing in the food service and speciality retail categories had demonstrated the consumers’ spending patterns this season.

Roberts said a slight increase in the retail consumer confidence had been noted, while foot traffic had seen a marginal increase by comparison with the 2016 season.

“There was an increase in overall turnover and trading density of the entire centre, as well as a substantial increase in spend per head of our customers,” she said, concluding that the centre had a positive outlook for trading in 2018.

Reporting a great festive season despite expectations to the contrary, Greenacres Shopping Centre spokeswoman Kirsti Dolinschek said the mall had seen growth in its annual December footfall.

“Tenants were mostly satisfied with the performance over December 2017. There was a lot of anticipation that it would be dramatically down on 2016, given the economic climate and political mayhem. However, a lot of them were on par with and in a few cases exceeded their 2016 figures.”

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