Shopping malls could become white elephants as online shopping becomes more popular. Picture: Thomas Holder/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Cape Town - Shopping malls could become white elephants as online shopping becomes more popular.

As the 23rd South African Council of Shopping Centre (SACSC) Annual Congress kicks off in Cape Town on Wednesday, experts agree that the shopping mall as we know it cannot survive much longer, especially at a time when retailers globally are being disrupted by digital innovations.

South Africa has the sixth most number of shopping centres, behind the US, Japan, Canada, the UK, and China.

Asked for his view, consumer behaviour prediction specialist Vian Chinner, chief executive of the South African artificial intelligence (AI) start-up Xineoh, warned that if malls and their constituent shops did not adapt to providing leisure, they would perish.

He said malls would only survive because “people go to malls partly to satisfy their needs for goods and services - they also go there to consume leisure”.

“Malls and their constituent shops will in future start accentuating experiences for consumers. Think of a clothing retailer offering fashion parades in the shop, etc.”

The theme of the conference is “Evolve” and one of the keynote speakers at the event will be Doug Stephens, a Canadian retail futurist who believes that change in the global retail sector has accelerated beyond even the boldest forecasts.

Stephens said: “Online giants are growing at a dizzying pace.

“Hundreds of well-known brick and mortar retailers have closed their doors, and brands and retailers across categories are struggling to understand the shifting needs and expectations of a new consumer.”

“From online to brick and mortar, the very concept of what stores are, how consumers shop them, and even the core economic model for revenue will be profoundly reinvented,” said Stephens.

Simon Wilson, the chief technology officer of Aruba HPE Networks for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: “Stats SA retail figures for December 2018 showed an annual decline of 1.4% instead of the expected 2.1% growth.

“It seems like brick-and-mortar stores are battling against decaying consumer confidence.”

Nevertheless, Wilson believes customers are changing the retail landscape as their behaviour changes at an unprecedented rate, creating new demands and pressures for offline and online retailers alike.

He said: “In fact, digital platforms such as Amazon are now looking into an in-store approach. eCommerce made up only 10.2% of total retail sales worldwide in 2017, signalling the continued consumer appetite for an in-person shopping experience.

“After all, unlike shopping online, brick-and-mortar stores can offer the possibility of in-person interactions with retail staff, as well as unique shared experiences that transcend traditional shopping routines.”

@MwangiGithahu

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