Apparel, grocery retailers boost trading density growth at malls

Greater appetite for space at the country’s shopping malls by clothing and grocery retailers has helped boost trading densities, with super-regional centres gobbling up most of that growth.

This is according to Clur International’s Shopping Centre Index released this week, which states that annualised trading density for all centres grew by 8.4% to R39 879/m² in the second quarter of 2023.


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Super-regional malls – which would include Sandton City, Canal Walk, Gateway Theatre of Shopping and Mall of Africa – took the biggest bite of the growth, seeing an uptick of 11.5% in trading density in the first half of the year to R47 327/m² compared to the 2022 period.

The growth in trading density in the first half comes despite the tough economic environment constraining consumer discretionary spending.

It is worth noting, however, that growth in the first half of the year has been rather timid compared to the climbs recorded in 2022.

According to the index, although there has been growth in trading densities, even surpassing consumer price inflation of 5.4% in the period, Q2 growth remained 3.4% weaker than that recorded in December 2022 and 1.7% lower than Q1 2023 levels.

Market swings settle

“The retail property market is now finding a more natural position,” says Belinda Clur, MD of Clur International.

“As people have returned to a more interactive world, recent years have seen a swing from a Covid survival tenant mix to a post-Covid curated lifestyle mix.

“This is now evolving into a bolder balanced mix, containing clear elements of experimentation and depth of texture as the market responds to a more settled consumer.”

Listen: MSCI Trading Density Index: Super-regional shopping centres continue to lead the charge with 16.2% growth

Clur’s shopping centre data is derived from the Clur Report, which tracks performance at more than four million square metres of prime retail space for listed and unlisted property funds across South Africa and Namibia.

Apparel leads

According to the data, the apparel, grocery, speciality, homeware, furniture and interior, and food services categories account for 75% of new lease uptake across the index.

In South Africa, apparel retailers comprise 28% of the count, with shoe retailers claiming the largest footprint growth within the category, taking 5% of the new space. Unisex and women’s wear followed, with boutique or large format spaces attracting the most attention from consumers.

Next in the line of dominance were grocery retail stores, which accounted for 15.1% of area take-up across the index in the second quarter.


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The food service sector also came in strong, accounting for 7.6% of new space, with fast casual dining formats also registering considerable growth.

Speciality retailers – which include toys, baby stores, homeware and DIY – accounted for 13% of new space entries this period, while the homeware, furniture and interior retailers took up 11.2% of new lettings.

Trading balances

Although growth in letting areas may be good, Clur warns that some retailers may be more exposed than others, with the firm spotting over-trading in some quarters.

Apparel retailers have been identified as one category that is becoming overtraded.

According to the firm, the sector may be spatially over-represented.

“This could have a dilutionary effect on trading densities. By contrast, the grocery/supermarket and food service sectors show signs of being under-traded, with room for a responsible space take-up. That is encouraging as these together make up over 20% of the full index,” says Clur.

Homeware, furniture and interior department stores are also being watched for over-trading. Although these stores have grown new space take-up, Clur fears growth may dilute trading densities.

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