48,000 vehicles, even more shoppers: These 2 malls were SA’s busiest on Black Friday

Almost 110,000 vehicles checked in at just five of the country’s biggest malls on Black Friday. Picture: Mark Potterton/Unsplash

Almost 110,000 vehicles checked in at just five of the country’s biggest malls on Black Friday. Picture: Mark Potterton/Unsplash

Published Dec 7, 2023


Almost 110,000 vehicles checked in at just five of the country’s biggest malls on Black Friday, with Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal being the busiest hive of in-store shopping activity.

Mall of Africa, Clearwater Mall, and Menlyn Park Shopping Centre in Gauteng received shoppers travelling in 66,900 vehicles while the Gateway Theatre of Shopping and The Pavilion shopping centre flew KZN’s in-store shopping flag high with a combined vehicle tally of 41,700.

If each of these vehicles carried an average of three consumers, this means that 325,800 people passed through doors of these five malls in just one day.

The busiest malls in the country, however, according to data from Lightstone, were the Mall of Africa and Gateway Theatre of Shopping.

Categorising malls by size, these were the busiest shopping destinations for Black Friday bargain hunters this year:

Mall size: Larger than 50,000 square metres

1. Mall of Africa – Midrand, Gauteng: 24,600 vehicles

2. Gateway Theatre of Shopping – Umhlanga, KZN: 23,400

3. Menlyn Park Shopping Centre – Pretoria, Gauteng: 22,700

4. Clearwater Mall – Johannesburg, Gauteng: 19,600

5. The Pavilion – Westville, KZN: 18,300

Mall size: 25,000 square metres to 50,000 square metres

1. Hillfox Power Centre – Johannesburg, Gauteng: 11,300

2. Greenacres Shopping Centre – Gqeberha, Eastern Cape: 11,300

3. Middelburg Mall – Middelburg, Mpumalanga: 10,900

4. Arbour Crossing – Amanzimtoti, KZN: 10,700

5. The Mall @ Carnival – East Rand, Gauteng: 10,600

Mall size: 10,000 square metres to 25,000 square metres

1. Ferndale on Republic – Ferndale, Gauteng: 10,900

2. Carlswald Shopping Centre – Midrand, Gauteng: 10,700

3. Nelspruit Crossing – Mbombela, Mpumalanga: 10,500

4. Broadacres Shopping Centre – Sandton, Gauteng: 9,900

5. San Ridge Square – Midrand, Gauteng: 9,800

Mall size: 1,000 square metres to 10,000 square metres

1. The Neighbourhood Square – Johannesburg, Gauteng: 6,700

2. Glen Acres Shopping Centre – Kempton Park, Gauteng: 6,100

3. Thavhani Mall – Thohoyandou, Limpopo: 5,900

4. Columbine Square Shopping Centre – Johannesburg, Gauteng: 5,600

5. Waterstone Village – Somerset West, Western Cape: 5,300

Black Friday in-store shopping numbers drop in 2023

Despite these seemingly high numbers of in-store shoppers, Joe Spring, head of location and commerce at Lightstone says Black Friday traffic volumes in South Africa’s malls were significantly lower in 2023 compared to 2019. This is in line with overall mall traffic volume declines since Covid and the subsequent surge in online adoption.

“Comparing the Black Friday in-mall traffic volumes to the last Friday in October of the same year, we see that 2023 volumes increased by 15 percent, on a par with the increase in 2019 but considerably down on 2021 and 2022.

“In part, this is in line with a settling down trend after retail-starved South Africans went big on Black Friday in 2021.”

One does need to take into account though that 2023 was the only year in recent times where Black Friday preceded the 25th of November, payday for a large contingent of the workforce. Also, in its earlier days, Black Friday activity was more strongly concentrated on white goods and big ticket items such as computers, and these offerings were generally found in the larger malls, he says.

When comparing the growth in traffic volumes on Black Friday compared to the last Friday in October, by mall size, Lightstone’s data reveals that Black Friday 2019 saw visitor volumes increase by 31 percent in large malls compared to only six percent at small convenience centres – a 25 percent difference between the centre sizes at either end of the spectrum.

Since then, says Spring, the difference has dropped to between 15 percent and 19 percent as stores in small convenience centres – primarily food and grocery stores, have increased their Black Friday promotions and volumes.

Are shopping malls dying? Or already dead?

While the Covid lockdowns significantly impacted the retail industry in South Africa and severe load shedding has created further major challenges for landlords and tenant, Andrew Dewey, managing director of Swindon Property, says shopping centres in the country remain resilient. They are also constantly seeking to reinvent themselves with new attractions and refurbishments to draw in shoppers.

“Although much has been made of late regarding the sale of a few sizeable shopping malls, raising questions about the long-term viability of these large malls, this cannot be taken purely at face value and it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all scenario.

“The reasons behind this trend are multi-faceted. As a result of the pandemic, foot traffic in major shopping centres dwindled, retailers pressured mall owners to reduce rental rates, and property values fluctuated.”

Rising operating costs have also put pressure on the centre owners in renewal negotiations.

Taking all these factors into account, the listed property companies (REITs) that own most of the large super-regional centres, naturally have to manage their debt ratios, and with increasing interest rates escalating the cost of ownership, some have found it necessary to dispose of certain assets in order to reduce debt levels in line with industry standards.

Despite this, Dewey says the retail sector has shown signs of recovery, with foot traffic and spending bouncing back, especially in 2022.

“With a population of approximately 62 million, and the sixth-highest amount of shopping centre space globally, our average dwell time in these centres remains high, driven by a lack of safe public spaces as well as a culture of visiting malls for entertainment and social interaction.”

This, along with higher data costs, less efficient networks, and challenges in physical address locations, are among the reasons why South Africa lags behind in online shopping compared to the rest of the world.

Echoing this, Surine Griffin, chief operations officer at Broll Property Management, says malls that are changing hands are undergoing revamps to meet evolving shopper needs. So while it is true that the South African shopping landscape is evolving, this does not mean shopping centres are dying or becoming white elephants any time soon.

“Recent reports in the media have drawn comparisons with the retail environment in the United States (US), where shopping behaviour and trends differ significantly from South Africa. Our shopping centres may not be trading at the same levels they were prior to the pandemic, but they are still trading – and trading well.”

Online shopping, especially grocery shopping, is undoubtedly increasing, with shopping for necessities the largest driver of e-commerce in this country. For tenants, however, she says overall turnover from online shopping accounts for less than five percent of their total sales, a figure that has grown by about 40 percent since Covid.

In addition, Griffin notes that malls – mostly in the 20,000 square-metre to 30,000 square-metre category, continue to be built in South Africa.

“There has definitely been a decline in the construction of mega malls, but the number of mid-sized malls being built is on the rise. And, numerous older centres are being revamped, a trend that is evident in all provinces throughout the country. To add to this, some property owners are expanding overseas.”

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