Lightstone recently published its latest property newsletter for December 2023, revealing the five most popular malls by foot traffic in South Africa – four of which are in Gauteng.

According to Lightstone’s data, retail property registered the highest volume of transactions in 2023, with approximately 5,592 transactions to the value of an estimated R15.8 billion.

Retail transactions in 2023 accounted for 29.6% of the total commercial property transactions recorded by Lightstone – which also noted that mall visits between January and October 2023 were up 3% compared to 2022.

Taking a closer look at retail in South Africa, Lightstone also listed the top five busiest shopping malls in the country, which showed some changes compared to 2022.

Mall of Africa was crowned the busiest shopping mall in South Africa in 2023, moving up from second place in 2022.

Mall of Africa, Midrand, Gauteng.

This is then followed by the 2022 busiest mall Galleria in Durban, which is now second in 2023, while Sandton City/ Nelson Mandela Square ranks third for 2023.. maintaining its spot from last year.

Interestingly, Lightstone noted that daily vehicle visits to the 20 busiest shopping malls across the country exceeded 10,000, on average, while some registered daily visits at over 17,0000.

Additionally, of the 20 busiest malls, 14 are located in Gauteng, four in KwaZulu-Natal, and two in Western Cape.

Average shopping time was the highest at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town (105 minutes), while the Mall of Africa and Sandton City registered an average of 90 minutes.

Tough times ahead for shopping malls

According to the latest BER Retail survey, after climbing from a three-year low of 20 in Q2 2023 to 32 in Q3, the number of retailers that were satisfied with the prevailing business conditions increased further to 47 in the fourth quarter – the highest reading since 2022Q3.

The BER said that the improvement in confidence appears to be driven by improvements in profitability and general business conditions – with load shedding improving at the time of the survey – instead of sales growth.

However, respondents in the non-durable goods retail sector (e.g., food, beverages, groceries, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals) said that sales volumes were significantly lower compared to the 2022 holiday season – a trend that is expected to spread across the retail sector.

TransUnion’s Q4 Consumer Pulse Study shows that cash-trapped South Africans will be conscious of what they spend their money on, with many saying they intend to cut back on non-essential spending as they battle to pay bills and service credit – which will impact the retail sector over the upcoming festive season.

The report also noted that strained consumers would adapt their budget strategies over the next quarter.

Nearly half (47%) of consumers said they would cut down on dining out, travel and entertainment and spend less on retail shopping and big purchases in the next three months.

This cut in spending is mainly targeted towards clothing and electronics, while other cuts include cancelling memberships – such as the gym – and cancelling digital services and subscriptions.