There are many factors that contribute to the success – or otherwise – of a shopping centre, and getting the right tenant mix is right up there at the top of the list. The general manager of a major mall weighs in on what “tenant mix” really means.
“First impressions count,” says Olive Ndebele, general manager of Pretoria’s Menlyn Park Shopping Centre, the largest mall of its kind in Africa following its two-year R2-billion redevelopment. “We want our customers to be blown away by what we’re offering. We want them to find not only everything they need under one roof but also to be absolutely thrilled by the many, many additional ‘nice-to-have’ and unique offerings they’ll find at Menlyn Park Shopping Centre.”
To achieve this objective, says Ndebele, you have to know the mall catchment area and exactly who your mall will be servicing, and that’s generally the community in which it is located – although the very popular Menlyn Park Shopping Centre is also a magnet to residents of the outlying suburbs of Pretoria, the large contingent of the foreign businesspeople and diplomats who live in South Africa’s executive capital city, and keen shoppers from the African diaspora including Sadec and Sub Saharan Africa.
“You have to ensure there’s as close a match between the needs of your target markets, their buying capacity, and the kinds of tenants present in your mall,” says Ndebele. For this reason, Menlyn Park Shopping Centre management conducted extensive market research in order to have insights the demographics, needs, size and disposable income of their target markets, as well as their aspirations and preferences.
But getting the tenant mix right isn’t important just to bring feet into the mall. It’s vital for the tenants themselves too. “Ideally, you want complementary stores feeding off each other, meeting shoppers’ needs and enhancing revenues,” Ndebele says.
Niche retailers, which are the many little stores that provide the variety in a shopping centre, don’t usually have large marketing or advertising budget, so they rely on the larger retailers in the mall to bring in the customers. “Anchor tenants, which are generally grocery offerings in South Africa, bring the critical mass into the mall,” Ndebele explains. “If, as a shopping-centre manager, you get the right anchor tenants, the smaller retailers will feel reassured that a certain type of consumer will definitely be visiting the mall, and that the footcount will therefore be assured to at least a certain degree, and that will probably encourage them to set up shop in your mall.”
These retailers include what Ndebele calls the “non-retail services”, such as (in the case of Menlyn Park Shopping Centre) a Fives Futbol, Fun company, a speciality store, a dry-cleaner, a barber, an internet-browsing store, a travel agent and an e-toll outlet. “These offerings ensure a more holistic approach to our tenant mix, and they do also contribute invidually to the mall’s footcount,” she points out.
And there are a couple of further important criteria when it comes to tenant mix: where your tenants are located, and how much space their shops take up are also vital. “Your customers don’t want to have to walk from one end of a shopping centre to another to tick off specific items on their shopping list,” Ndebele says, “which is why, for instance, at Menlyn Park Shopping Centre we’ve grouped all the large anchor grocery stores together in Grocery Avenue. This ensures a very accessible, convenient experience for consumers who may want to visit two or three large retail grocery outlets to fill their exact needs.”
The same applies, says Ndebele, to the mall’s Fashion Wing, where cutting-edge fashion brands are grouped together over three levels; and the new spacious food and entertainment area, with popular eateries clustered together, offering a very wide choice within a pleasant space where customers can linger.
And on that subject, says Ndebele, “We must bear in mind that malls are no longer primarily about simply shopping. When consumers visit malls, they’re looking beyond traditional shopping – they also want relaxing and entertaining experiences. So, ideally, you want to maintain a good balance between all the categories in a shopping centre – between food and beverages, fashion and beauty, electronics, groceries, and entertainment, plus a healthy number of smaller ‘non-retail’ offerings. This side of getting the mix right is as much an art as it is a science.”
The bottom line, says Ndebele, is finding the sweet spot for your customers between convenience and experience. “And mall management must never forget that all tenants affect footcount – both the big destination stores that anchor a mall, and the smaller ‘impulse-buy’ and ‘non-retail’ stores that make up the mix.”