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Work to ensure feet in stores turn into sales

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Times are tough, so find ways to encourage consumers to spend

Independent retailers need to do more to attract customers to their stores if they want to survive the economic downturn.

“If a mall shopper walks past your shop front and doesn’t look at it, you have failed,” says Simone Homan, regional manager of Spire Property Management.

Consumers have become “increasingly price-conscious” and are holding on to their money tighter than before. This has left many retailers struggling and “a number” of independent retailers are asking for rent reductions or closing down.

“Gone are the days when increased mall foot traffic equalled increased sales. In this recessionary environment, tenants need to do everything possible to get more feet into their shops and to convert those feet to sales.”

Retailers need to work hard if they want shoppers to spend money in their stores, Homan says.

“Passion and service sell. Therefore, owners of independent stores should ensure they are consistently training and monitoring their staff to ensure their merchandise is being passionately presented and sold to customers.”

Homan says shop fronts must be visually appealing and specifically, attention must be paid to lighting.

“Displays must be constantly changed – at least once a week.”

Shoppers will often not enter a store if they do not believe they can afford items inside, so Homan advises owners to clearly display their lower-priced items to attract customers. They should also add flattering and mood-enhancing lighting, and attractive smells, to make their shops “more appealing” and unique. 

Retail customers want unique and more personalised shopping experiences. Picture: Ion Ceban

While smaller independent stores are often the first to feel the pinch in recessionary conditions, Homan says it is not all doom and gloom as consumers are becoming increasingly bored with uniform, large chain stores and are looking for different and more personalised shopping experiences.

“This offers the smaller boutique stores an opportunity to grow, by tailoring their products and services accordingly.” Similarly, smaller centres can remain relevant by offering amenities that fulfil this need.

“More greenery and park-like settings, increased natural light, interesting architecture and speciality retailers are all drawcards. Additionally, the foodie culture is now mainstream, and the typical food court options don’t cut it. Community retail centres can offer exciting dining options for the surrounding community,” Homan says.

“Neighbourhood retail centres with the correct tenant mix and offerings and specifically those that sit firmly in the residential nodes, are very attractive from a convenience point of view.”

Ease of access and free parking are additional drawcards held by the smaller centres, which see them surviving in the face of declining consumer spending. The South African Property Owners’ Association’s latest Retail Trends report states neighbourhood segment retailers had a “strong” first quarter this year.

Its annualised trading density grew by 8.3% on a year before, and an increase from December’s 3.2% growth. On the other hand, super regional centres have “lost some steam”. It says small regional and regional centres “continue to lag”, recording annualised trading density growth of 0.6% and 0%, respectively, for the year ending in March.

“This highlights some difficulties faced by some mid-tier centres, many of which face high levels of competition from large super regionals and smaller, modern convenience centres. Remaining relevant to their catchment area requires a fine balance between convenience and experiential shopping elements, further amplified by the constrained consumer economy,” the report says.

Shopping centre definition types

Super regional: > 100000m² Regional: 50000m² to 100000m²

Small regional: 25000m² to 50000m²

Community: 12000m² to 25000m²

Neighbourhood: 5000m² to 12000m²

Source: Sapoa

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