Emira Property Fund has relaunched its Springfield Retail Centre in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, a year after the centre was ravaged by arson in the widespread looting and riots of July 2021.
The centre was attacked from July 12 2021 as looters made their way into the centre and ransacked the majority of its stores. The next day there was arson starting at Mambo’s Plastics Warehouse and burning along a line of shops, including the centre’s electrical room.
But Emira soldiered on and the rebuilding, restoring and refreshing of the 17,300 square metre community-focused lifestyle centre began immediately, with community assistance. 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.
SASRIA or the South African Special Risk Insurance Association, is a state-owned company and the only short-term insurer that provides cover to all the people and businesses that have assets in South Africa, as well as government entities, against special risks such as civil commotion, public disorder, striking, riots and terrorism.
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 Corporation and Baby City.
Emira has also reconfigured its tenant mix, to improve the shopping experience for visitors.
“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,” said Ulana van Biljon, Emira’s chief operating officer.
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. Ted’s Home Store upgraded its 1 000 square metre store to create a new showroom, which opened in May 2022. The combined impact has created one of the strongest home and décor retail offerings in the region.
“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,” said van Biljon.
Emira applied a strategic leasing strategy and gathered 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,” said van Biljon.
Emira has also recently completed another such project for a very different asset, its 91 000 m2 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 and Pep Cell,” said van Biljon.
Emira has a portfolio worth R12.6bn, including 77 directly-held properties valued at R9.8bn in South Africa. As much as 17% of its total asset base is offshore, made up of equity investments in 12 grocery-anchored open-air convenience shopping centres in the UA.