Emira’s Springfield Retail Centre relaunches a year after it is burned by looters
Emira Property Fund (JSE: EMI) has relaunched its Springfield Retail Centre in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, a year after the centre was damaged by arson in the widespread looting and devastation of July 2021.
Starting back on 12 July 2021, looters made their way into the centre and ransacked most of its stores. The mayhem culminated in an arson attack the next day, with fires starting at Mambo’s Plastics Warehouse and burning along a line of shops, including the centre’s electrical room.
The rebuilding, restoring and refreshing of the 17,300sqm community-focused lifestyle centre began immediately, with the community coming out to help. Most of the centre was reinstated and trading within a few weeks of the damage occurring, and Emira had the maximum amount of SASRIA cover in place to adequately cover any damages and loss of trading.
Fortunately, only one wing of the centre had structural damage, and around 30% of Block A was cordoned off safely without affecting trade in the rest of the centre, including anchors Food Lovers’ Market, HiFi Corp and Baby City. While work continued on the fire-damaged section, a concerted communications effort let shoppers know the property was open and which stores were trading. As part of reinstating the centre, Emira took the opportunity to refresh and refine its tenant mix and reconfigure space to improve the overall shopping experience.
“We considered general shopping trends, monitored consumer patterns in Springfield Retail Centre’s catchment area and observed the centre’s tenant performance in order to identify improvements for its offering and match them with the type of retailers that would work best for the refreshed centre and its shoppers,” explains Ulana van Biljon, Emira COO.
This included improving the centre’s tenant mix and reconfiguring an underutilised part of the property to create floor space for Coricraft’s new home and decor showroom. The Coricraft concept store opened in April this year, with a new layout and design unique to Springfield Retail Centre. Similarly, Ted’s Home Store also took the opportunity to upgrade its 1,000sqm-plus store at Springfield Retail Centre to create an all-new showroom, which opened in May 2022. The combined impact has created one of the strongest home and décor retail offerings in the region.
Finally, most of the restoration work has been completed and Springfield Retail Centre is already trading fully with only Westpack still to open at the end of August 2022. The open-air shopping experience has a refreshed array of tenants, from fashion and home furnishings to babies, tech and more.
The effectiveness of its strategic re-leasing is evident in the return of customers to Springfield Retail Centre, notwithstanding current economic pressures.
Emira applies its strategic leasing philosophy to all its shopping centres, constantly gathering data to keep track of macro and local market trends, analysing how different tenants are performing and considering this in relation to their position and adjacencies within a centre.
“Using these insights, we aim to place the best retailer into an optimally-sized store in the ideal location within a centre in order to benefit its customers, trading, neighbouring stores, the mall’s overall flow and its capacity to attract buying power,” says van Biljon.
She adds, “Signing a make-do lease to fill a vacancy without considering these factors is often a shortterm and potentially very costly exercise. By emphasising what our customers want, our strategic leasing supports excellent trading densities for tenants and the good performance of our retail assets.”
Strategic leasing for Emira is definitely not a one-size-fits-all process. It recently completed another such project for a very different asset – the large 91,000sqm regional Wonderpark Shopping Centre in Pretoria, Gauteng.
By refreshing the retail mix, Emira was able to find ways to meet Wonderpark Shopping Centre’s customers’ latest needs in response to the emergence of quality and value as more important factors in their purchasing patterns. New tenants were added to the retail mix, while several existing tenants were relocated in the centre and right-sized. This included Clicks, Gelmar, The Bed Shop, Russells, The Hub, Mr Price Home, Fabiani, Code, Kingsmead Shoes, Ackerman’s Woman, Pep Cell and more.
The result: an increase in spend-per-head, positive turnover growth, better-than-industry footfall averages, and greater shopper cross-pollination. Put simply, the project has resulted in better trading for Wonderpark retailers and the centre, and it has attracted new tenants to this market.
“Although Springfield Retail Park and Wonderpark Shopping Centre are vastly different in size and market, they both meet Emira’s retail portfolio goals of offering South African consumers great convenience shopping experiences that are tailored to their specific shopper community,” says van Biljon.
Emira has total assets of R12.6bn, including 77 directly-held properties valued at R9.8bn in South Africa. A 17% portion of its total asset base is international, made up of equity investments in 12 grocery-anchored open-air convenience shopping centres in the USA