Mall of Africa has defied the tough economic climate in the country by continuing to offer a thrilling shopping environment that has seen it winning several awards in the year it also celebrated its third birthday. Atterbury asset manager Heloise van Niekerk shares some of the good news and festive season plans at Africa’s coolest mall…

Let’s start by hearing more about those awards – please share details!
The Sunday Times Generation Next Awards polls more than 12 000 young people across South Africa, and Mall of Africa was named the Coolest Mall for 2019, the second year in a row. Mall of Africa also scooped several awards – gold, silver and bronze – at the annual SA Council of Shopping Centres’ Footprint Marketing Awards. These awards seek to recognise exceptional shopping centre marketing, innovation and creative achievements, together with economic success. This year MoA took home awards in three categories: Community Relations, Integration, and Public Relations and Sales Promotions and Events. To focus on just one award-winning event, the quarterly Africa Art Collective won the Spectrum Award which rewards promotional and marketing activities aimed at stimulating retail sales, which of course contribute to a shopping centre’s profitability. It also won gold in the Sales and Promotion category after increasing foot traffic but also total turnover by 9.45% during that period; and also scooped gold in the Community Relations category.

Congratulations! A real achievement in a time when we see other shopping centres struggling. What has been some of the other highlights at the mall this past year?
Our partnership with organisations such as the Julie Miller Investment Art Institute enables us to host arts events throughout the year; and the quarterly Africa Art Collective, Seasons exhibitions, which won us those awards, are a real highlight. This is the largest showcase of African art in South Africa – over 500 artworks and the work of 130 artists are exhibited, which officially makes Mall of Africa a patron of the arts!

It was a further coup to secure the National Antiques and Decorative Arts Faire which had taken place at Sandton Convention Centre for several years.

And of course, fashion is one of the main reasons shoppers visit the Mall; thanks in part to the fact that some of the world’s best luxury brands are represented. So, it was fitting for us to collaborate with SA Fashion Week, and its Africa’s Face of Fashion model searches, followed by designer popup menswear and womenswear shops – all were definite highlights! So was our strategic partnership with Condé Nast which led to MoA hosting the GQ Best Dressed Men Awards – such an honour as it is one of the most prominent fashion events on SA’s social calendar, (and incidentally also won us a silver Footprint Award in the Public Relations category!)

And in terms of the bottom line, MoA has shown steady growth both in foot count (8%) and in sales (10%), so it has been a very good year for us.

Has tenancy been stable over the year?
We have managed to retain most of the tenants. One of the challenges that we faced this year was with the Edcon spaces after the company’s collapse, but we managed to successfully recycle four out of the five stores. The other challenge was the failure of Hamleys, but we managed to secure Pep and Dealz and successfully secured Toy Kingdom.

What was the biggest new shop opening of the year?
There were a couple; the first Yuppiechef store in Gauteng opened on the same day in June as Exclusive Books, and in September we had the grand opening of the new-generation Pick n Pay store, covering 4 367 sqm.

And how busy was the mall this year in terms of shopper numbers? Has there been a decline; is it holding up?
We are proud to announce that we have reached a new milestone of 1.3 million visitors a month.

Well done! Finally, what is planned at MOA for the festive season?
As usual, we have a full schedule of activities with families in mind. Waterfall Park is being transformed into a Dino-Adventure Park from 7 December, where families can walk among dinosaurs that are so realistic they almost seem alive. There will be augmented reality and virtual reality spaces for even more realism; and paleontology learning experiences for curious youngsters. There will also be an Adventure Fun Park offering activities including abseiling, wall climbing, a bungee trampoline and much more – loads of reasons for families to come hang out with us!

For more information and ticket purchases for the Dino-Adventure Park, please refer to our website www.mallofafrica.co.za.