Hamleys-branded lollipops sit on display at the company's flagship toy store on Regent Street in London, U.K., on Wednesday, July 25, 2012. The U.K. economy shrank more than economists forecast in the second quarter as record rainfall and an extra public holiday in the period sent output down the most in more than three years. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

More international brands and retailers were taking up space in South Africa’s shopping centres as consumers bought into international brands and the local industry acquired world-class standards, Amanda Stops, the chief executive of the SA Council of Shopping Centres, said on Friday.

Stops spoke to Business Report at the close of the council’s annual congress in Cape Town. The three-day event was attended by 1 600 delegates, including a mix of 35 local and international retailers.

She said a lot of international retailers had shown interest in opening stores in South Africa at the International Council of Shopping Centres congress in March.

“Some of them might not open stores now, but South Africa was definitely on their radar. Actually Africa as a whole was very high on the radar of international retailers who are looking to expand,” she said.

Stops believed that international retailers would help lift the already high standards of retailing in South Africa.

“International retailers should also be aware and know what the local competition is doing,” she said.

Hamleys, a UK-based toy retailer, is the latest international brand to join the likes of Zara, Cotton On, Topshop and Forever 21 by opening locally.

Hamleys head of international expansion, Helen Barnish, told delegates at the congress that the retailer was in the process of opening stores in South Africa.

The toy shop will compete head on with Toys R Us, which trades across 35 countries, including South Africa.

Barnish said Hamleys was looking to set up flagship stores in the best shopping malls close to major cities in South Africa.

“We have agreed on an initial growth of eight to nine stores, which could grow by anything between two and four stores a year in South Africa,” she said.

There would also be smaller-format outlets, including travel stores at Cape Town International Airport and OR Tambo International Airport.

Barnish said Hamleys would partner with a local business that had knowledge of the South African market.

Unlike Zara, which used a cut-and-paste method, Hamleys franchise stores were allowed to create their own designs for a target market, she said.

Swedish retailer H&M has confirmed that it would open its first store in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront next year.

H&M has 3 300 stores across 54 markets, with a target of increasing the number of stores by between 10 percent and 15 percent a year.

Australian retailer Cotton On, which has been in South Africa for three years and has 100 local stores, had said its Sandton City store ranked among the four best-performing outlets globally.

With approximately 1 800 shopping centres in South Africa, Stops believed there was still potential for growth.

When asked if South Africa was over-shopped, Stops said: “In some areas we don’t need more centres but in some areas we do.

“It is about finding the right location, doing thorough research and looking at where consumers are.”

Despite depressed consumer spending and the slow growth of the economy, Stops said shopping centres were still experiencing high volumes of shoppers.

“I think if you are looking at a lot of successful shopping centres [which have] got the mix right and are catering for a large number of consumers, they are still seeing good growth figures, which are around 18 percent to 20 percent,” she said.