The relaunch of Umlazi Mega City marks an important milestone for the growth of local township economies at a time when both the retail sector and the economy as a whole are under pressure.
Carmen Collison, the retail asset manager of majority shareholder, SA Corporate Real Estate, said that the R370 million investment in extending the mall was testament to its success and an indicator that investors remained confident that the so-called township economies would continue to grow.
Since it was developed in 2006, Umlazi Mega City has been a pioneer of the township shopping experience and has played a crucial role in changing perceptions in the retail property sector and particularly those of major retail chains.
The Umlazi Mega City upgrade is set to offer the community a revitalised, relevant tenant mix and quality facilities. The ongoing success of Mega City will set the standard for retail facilities in this area and act as a catalyst for further economic growth in this important region.
The relaunched Umlazi Mega City boasts an additional 19,000m² of retail space, almost doubling the total lettable area to 52 000m².
The revamp saw the creation of upgraded ablution facilities and the addition of a new and larger taxi rank that offers ablution for taxi commuters. Three hundred and seventy parking bays have been added and traffic flow within the mall has been significantly improved.
Umlazi Mega City currently 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 are represented.
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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.
An average of 1.3 million shoppers visits 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.
Gugu Dlamini, managing director of Sizovuna Investments, a broad-based BEE private investment company comprising six shareholders based in Umlazi and Lamontville which bought a 25 percent stake in Umlazi Mega city in 2010, pointed out that the R370 million revamp and expansion had taken retailing within the region, to the next level.
The original construction of Umlazi Mega City in 2006 increased the number of mainstream outlets and saw the number of residents shopping outside the area drop from 49,9 percent to 34,2 percent. (Source: Demacon study: July 2010). This had led to a corresponding drop in spending on transport by consumers.
“Whereas the original Umlazi Mega City provided a much-needed critical mass of quality retail outlets for the residents of Umlazi, the revitalized centre will provide a more rounded retail experience that has become the trend and the objective of malls that are on the cutting edge of retail in South Africa,” Dlamini added.
Most importantly of all, she said, this could see the retention of a larger portion of shoppers spend within the local area and ultimately the empowerment of local people through the creation of jobs and career and business opportunities.
“We have also witnessed Umlazi and Lamontville contractors benefiting by obtaining work opportunities for local companies who then provided employment to locals during the redevelopment of the centre,” she said.
General manager of Umlazi Mega City, Sphumelele Khuzwayo, also expressed how excited they are as the centre for this great milestone and further explained that this was done to better the community. “We are extremely thrilled that we have finally achieved this milestone to fully cater to the needs of the community,” said Khuzwayo.