Umlazi Mega City has long been regarded as a pioneer of the township shopping experience.
Image Supplied by Umlazi Mega City
Now, after a R370 million revamp and relaunch at the end of 2017, it is taking community engagement in the retail space to a whole new level, according to General Manager, Siphumelele Khuzwayo.
She points out that the changes to the centre have been significant. The mega revamp began in 2015 and added retail space, almost doubling the total lettable area to 52000m.
The trend towards adding food courts at larger malls saw Umlazi Mega City add abrand new and air-conditioned food court. Other improvements included upgraded ablution facilities, 370 free parking bays and the addition of a new and larger taxi rank. Traffic flow within the mall has also been significantly improved.
The crux of the Umlazi Mega City upgrade is that it offers the community a revitalised, relevant tenant mix and quality facilities.
When launched in 2006, the mall was hailed as one of the catalysts for bringing big retail brands into the townships in the first place. According to a Demacon study in July 2010, it not only increased the number of mainstream outlets but saw the number of residents shopping outside the area drop from 49.9% to 34.2%.
The revamped Umlazi Mega City now has 160 stores that fall within the fashion, food, supermarket, cellular, health and beauty, home and lifestyle, hardware, sport, footwear and medical categories. Anchors include the likes of Mega Super Spar, Pick ‘n Pay and Woolworths. All major banks and financial institutions are represented.
As part of the redevelopment, existing tenants including Spar, Woolworths, Clicks, Mr Price and Truworths were expanded. The revitalized tenant mix now also includes the likes of McDonald’s, Fashion Express, Le’Coq Sportif, Pep Home, Garment Division, City Girl and Asmalls.
Management is being selective about the tenant mix for the remaining vacant space. Mrs Khuzwayo says they are conducting ongoing research to establish which brands and products the customers want to see in the mall and are approaching the relevant retailers ranging from fashion to fast food tenants.
After working in the likes of Gateway Theatre of Shopping, Springfield Value Centre, Bluff Towers and Davenport Square over the past 10 years, she took up her position at Umlazi Mega City in April last year.
She says that, for her, Umlazi Mega City has been special as she has never worked at a centre serving the African community before – but, through her own background and insight, she has been able to not only identify and communicate with customers more effectively but has also been able to work closely with tenants to help them to identify obstacles which might be hindering their growth.
“The people of Umlazi are great. They really support the mall and they are constantly in contact with us which enables us to really feel part of the greater community.,” she says.
On average, 1.3 million shoppers visit Umlazi Mega City each month. Although its strategic location at the gateway to Umlazi does attract a cosmopolitan mix of consumers from a large catchment area, the majority are from the local communities of Umlazi and Lamontville.
1.7 million people visited the Mall during the month of December 2017 which is a record for the centre.
“That was a significant achievement as last year was a very difficult trading year. Now, there’s no reason why December 2018 can’t see us reach 2 million patrons. That is what we are working towards,” she says.
Recently, we celebrated two local entrepreneurs by contributing R3 000 in marketing and advertising support to their businesses. Sithembile Dube’s company, Inkwa Environmental Services, operates a fleet of vacuum trucks that remove effluent waste and desludges septic tanks. Sabelo Ngema’s NUZ Media Group offers services ranging from photography, events coordination and videography for all occasions from weddings to concerts.
Overall, she expects Umlazi Mega City to grow its role as an economic hub and continue to be a catalyst for local business development.