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Dwell time down, but malls see significant increase in foot traffic

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Data from analytics and research company Eighty20 shows that key performance metrics at shopping malls – including the overall number of visitors (footfall) – have recovered, with some surpassing pre-Covid levels.

The analysis was gathered from seven malls: Sandton City, Mall of Africa, Fourways Mall, Gateway Theatre of Shopping, Menlyn Park, The Pavilion and Canal Walk.

“While all seven malls have now recovered and exceeded pre-Covid footfall numbers, it took until Q3 2021 for most malls to reach pre-lockdown visitor volumes,” notes Eighty20 director Andrew Fulton.

“Fourways [Mall] and Sandton [City] have recovered best of the seven malls compared, but remember Fourways was still under renovation at the end of 2019, so its relative growth will look more impressive.”

Read: SA retailers need to adapt to the declining middle-class

The company says foot traffic at the malls saw significant drops of between 80% and 90%, with Sandton City being the most affected.

It says some malls experienced a 1.2 million decrease in visitors during the hard lockdown, down from the 1.5 million or more visitors recorded prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dwell time down

It notes, however, that the amount of time visitors spend in malls (dwell time), which dropped by between 65% and 85% during the lockdown, has still not recovered to pre-Covid levels.

“Canal Walk came closest to the pre-Covid benchmark at the beginning of the year, at 99% recovery, with Fourways [Mall] lagging at 89% – but since then it appears dwell time has fallen for all malls,” says Fulton.

Eighty20 says the persistent drop in dwell time supports its other research that shows shoppers are far more focused and deliberate with their spending and spend less time browsing.

“People tend to go into the store, get what they need, and get out quickly to avoid lengthy contact with other shoppers,” says Fulton.

He says the closing of cinemas, the shift to online shopping, and the rise of grocery delivery services are other likely contributors to the decrease in dwell time.

Shopper profiles

While Sandton City continues to dominate the three wealthiest segments – “middle class workers, heavy hitters and comfortable retirees” – Fourways Mall is showing the largest number of LSM 10 (living standards measure) shoppers.

Similar to Gateway and The Pavilion, Eighty20 notes that Canal Walk is the preferred destination for the mass credit market and reflects the demographics of South Africa best with more LSM 6 shoppers than LSM 10 shoppers.

“If we look in terms of income, nearly 37% of Sandton City shoppers earn more than R20 000 per month [of] personal income. For Pavilion and Canal Walk, only a quarter of shoppers earn that much. “

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Eighty20 says its Terain tool, which also provides insights into modes of transport used, indicates that around 45% of Sandton City shoppers use a car as their main mode of transport in comparison with 35% of shoppers at Canal Walk – 20% of the latter’s visitors use minibus taxis.

“While footfall has certainly recovered at the seven malls we examined, dwell time still isn’t at its pre-Covid levels and might never recover,” says Fulton.

“Considering that so many studies have shown a strong positive correlation between dwell time and sales, retailers in malls may need to start putting more creativity into attracting potential customers.”

Nondumiso Lehutso is a Moneyweb intern.



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