Shopping Centre Benchmark Indicators And New Market Trends

By Dr Dirk A Prinsloo

Urban Studies

During the year 2000 Urban Studies published the first shopping centre benchmark indicators for small, convenience, neighbourhood centres, right through to major regional shopping centres and super regional centres. These benchmark figures are based on a large number of interviews conducted at different sized centres throughout the country between 1998 and 2002. For the purpose of graphical representation centres of similar type and size have been grouped together in order to facilitate comparisons. As centres with a profile totally different from the ordinary could give rise to anomalies they have been excluded from the exercise. In total the results of more than 100 shopping centres have been included in this tracking survey.

These trends give an insight into the macro shopping centre performance during a particular year.

• Percentage of shoppers visiting specific size centres on a weekly basis
From this graph it is clear that shopping centres smaller than 10 000m² as well as those between 10 000m² and 30 000m² have a regular weekly visit of ±70% to 75%: that is some three-quarters of their regular visitors come on a weekly basis. These centres are to a great degree supported mainly because of their anchor grocery stores, which contribute to attracting the high level of weekly support. The large super regionals are supported by 48% of their total market once a week. However, their support from the primary catchment area coincides with other centres (±70% weekly support). See Table 1. It is also true that some of the community type centres (12 000m² -30 000m²) are showing larger than normal vacancy rates. Centres between 30 000m² and 60 000m² as well as those larger than 60 000m² also show a similar pattern with between 57% and 60% weekly support.


• The visits per month per shopping centre type

The total number of visits per centre varies according to size. Shopping centres of less than 10 000m² have up to 8,5 visits per month, whereas super regionals/regional shopping centres larger than 60 000m² have between 4 and 5 visits per month. The decline in support for centres under 100 000m² has levelled out. Further expansion of supermarkets will further influence this pattern. In comparison with American shopping centres our centres have a much higher monthly visit; the US figures are an average of 3,5 to 4 visits per month. The main reason for this is the fact that all of our regional shopping centres are associated with a strong grocery anchor-tenant, while the American counterparts have no large grocery component as part of their centres. The level of competition is also much stronger.


• Average time spent in centre

The time spent at shopping centres smaller than 10 000m² has remained very constant during the last 3 years at ±42 minutes per visit. There has been a small increase for centres between 10 000m² to 30 000m² and for them the figures are currently between 70 and 80 minutes per visit. In centres between 30 000m² and 60 000m² the duration of visits has been very constant at between 90-100 minutes. The major change, however, has occurred in large regional centres as well as super regional centres where the average duration of a visit has increased to ±140 minutes. In the super regional malls the average duration of the visit has been up to 168 minutes. This is a reflection of the nature of the shopping centre, the tenant mix as well as a change in shopping behaviour. The increase in the browsing factory may account for this longer duration. This emphasises the importance of attractive, “catchy” window-displays (in most centres a very neglected part of our marketing alternatives). The browsing factor in these large super regionals also varies between 8% up to 20% as the main reason for a visit.


• Driving time to centres

Time spent driving to centres has increased slightly for the regional and super regional centres since 2000. This indicates larger catchment areas or/and increased traffic volumes. The average driving time for small centres is between 10 and 12 minutes, centres between 10 000m² and 30 000m² is up to 15 minutes, and to regional centres larger than 60 000m² up to 22 minutes. Driving time to super regionals is +26 minutes.


Loyalty factor


• Loyalty to a particular centre can be measured by the number of visits relative to the last 10 visits to any large centre. In smaller centres (less than 10 000m²) the factor is 4,8, indicating a strong level of competition. Small regional centres enjoy a very loyal shopper base with 7,1, and the large regional centres, and super regional centres, have a loyalty factor of 6,6 and 5.1 respectively. It is interesting to note that the loyalty factor for value centres is also in the vicinity of 4,0 indicating the outflow and support for a number of other centres.

• Average age Shoppers

There is also a distinct correlation between the age of shoppers and the character of a particular residential area or business node. CBDs and theme centres have shoppers with an average age of 33 years. Shoppers in newer suburban areas have an average age of ±37 years, while in older, more established suburbs the profile is between 42 and 45 years. There is also a distinct difference between the evening and day-time shopper. In most cases the evening shoppers have an age somewhere between 24 to 33 years. By comparison the day-time shoppers are between 36 to 42 years old. The type and function of a centre will play a major role in attracting different age categories.

Table 1


Expenditure on Consumer Products

Table 2 clearly shows broad indications of spend per socio-economic grouping. It is expected that the high level of inflation during the past year will have a major impact on al these figures for 2003.

Table 2


It should be clear from the benchmark figures set out in the above that the retail market is continuously showing changes. These changes are the result of many different factors: the level of competition, the tenant mix, the entertainment offered, changes in shopping behaviour, and change in demographic profiles. It is anticipated that economic factors will continue to impact on shopping behaviour in future. It is therefore important to track your centre and measure the changes on a regular basis.

Most important trends during the past year:

  • The new super regional centres has/are busy establishing themselves in the market place. As expected these centres have taken longer to switch shoppers to become regular supporters. However, the trend and prospects for these centres are much more positive than 2 to 3 years ago. These centres fulfil a different role and shoppers must be aware of this and change shopping patterns accordingly;
  • more centres offer extended shopping hours but the progress towards later shopping (even to 18:00) is still slow;
  • a number of small convenience centres and even community type centres have successfully opened in the township areas;
  • the long awaited arrival of the so-called emerging market is now becoming a strong reality which will impact on retail and shopping centre performance in future. A very good example is in Sunnyside, Pretoria where the residents are now in their 30’s (compared to young students and older people in the past) earning between R5 000 and R10 000 per month. All this is positive but the quality of residential facilities must be maintained in the area;
  • more and more centres now a days cater for a wider spectrum of LSM categories. However, most centres still attract mainly LSM 7-10 shoppers;
  • The latest value centres added to the initial 22 seems to be more focused and more successful mainly because of better and more value orientated tenants;
  • The challenges that lie ahead are the successful expansion of regional centres. Concerns have been raised that some of the centres are getting too large for some customers therefore the preference for close by smaller centres. Some centres keep on expanding creating more and more “quiet”/dead end spots which are not easy to fill with the right tenants;
  • New centres planned are mostly driven by good residential growth in the more affluent parts of our cities. It is hoped that these new centres will also bring a new approach and not merely a duplication of existing centres.

The retail market remains very dynamic and a good understanding of this market must be driven by well executed research.