The Pavilion

Thinking outside the box
The global recession has hit the retail sector hard. Lynette Ntuli tells Gay Sutton how The Pavilion shopping mall in Durban, South Africa, has been attracting customers and mitigating the effects of the downturn.
The Pavilion Shopping Centre in Westville, a suburb of Durban, has reached the age of sweet sixteen, and has had a lifespan marked by growth and expansion.

Developed in the early ÔÇÖ90s and opened in October 1993 to initially provide 75,000 square metres of shopping space, the centre has gone through five phases of expansion, the most recent of which was completed in 2008, bringing the floor space to just under 120,000 square metres.
Now, it provides room for 232 tenants, has over forty restaurants and twelve cinemas and receives between 1.5 and 1.7 million visitors a month, a figure that almost doubles in DecemberÔÇÖs run-up to Christmas.
ÔÇ£There are very few super regional centres in the province of Kwazulu-Natal,ÔÇØ explains centre general manager Lynette Ntuli. ÔÇ£There are only ourselves and the Gateway shopping centre in Umhlanga Ridge. For years, The Pavilion has stood on its own as an iconic shopping destination in the whole province.ÔÇØ
Recent years have brought increasing competition, though. ÔÇ£And thatÔÇÖs never a bad thing,ÔÇØ Ntuli says. ÔÇ£However, the retail sector in general has been hit hard by the global recession, particularly some of the smaller malls. Our experience is different. Although we have not been unaffected we have been better able to buffer the consequences of the recession.ÔÇØ
The centreÔÇÖs ability to fight off the effects of the downturn is multi-faceted. To begin with, it is conveniently positioned alongside the N3, one of South AfricaÔÇÖs three major highways, and most Durban suburbs are within a two to twenty-minute drive. It also has a large and loyal customer base coming not just from Durban but from all areas of the province. However, it is the leasing, marketing and master development strategies that have made the significant difference, along with tightly integrated management of all elements of the centre.
ÔÇ£Our leasing strategy ensures that weÔÇÖve got the quality shops that our customers are looking for,ÔÇØ Ntuli explains. ÔÇ£We have eight large anchor tenants across the mall on four levels of trading, and they generally represent around sixty per cent of our space. When consumers are deciding where to shop, even on a limited budget, we want them to think of The Pavilion first.ÔÇØ
The centre has been continuously updated and improved to create a holistic consumer experience. ÔÇ£As a centre management team we need to make sure customers come into a clean, well-lit and hospitable mall with all the facilities they require, a mall that is entertaining for themselves and their kidsÔÇöindeed for the whole familyÔÇöwhere they have time to shop for their fashion and then sit down for a meal and perhaps enjoy some entertainment.ÔÇØ
Entertainment, therefore, plays a major part in attracting customers. The entire cinema level was added during the third phase of development, and a dynamic programme of events is run throughout the year. ÔÇ£In February, for instance, when everybody is celebrating St ValentineÔÇÖs Day, we put a little twist on it and present a bridal fair, which has grown to become one of the top bridal fairs in the region,ÔÇØ Ntuli explains. An Easter Carnival generally takes place in March and the child-oriented Easter eggs and Easter bunnies make it a popular family day out.
MotherÔÇÖs Day in May has hosted a very successful health and beauty fair on two occasions, while for FatherÔÇÖs Day in June the centre has put on a car show over the last few years. ÔÇ£This is designed with the male shopper in mind and creates a great environment for dads who have generally been ÔÇÿhauledÔÇÖ to the centre and have not necessarily come here of their own free will! They really enjoy it.ÔÇØ
This July, the main holiday season, the centre has put on something a little differentÔÇöa two-hour performance by the winners of the South African Idols show. ÔÇ£Idols has taken off in South Africa as it has right around the world. We had lots of people flocking in to see that. It was a free concert, and people were standing throughout the centre watching it.ÔÇØ
Marketing, of course, is essential to the success of events such as these. And not only is a significant budget spent on advertising on the radio and TV, in magazines and newspapers and in tourist and travel publications, but the centre has developed a very successful and effective website. ÔÇ£With all our marketing and events we also tie in our tenants and give them maximum exposure,ÔÇØ Ntuli says, ÔÇ£because ultimately, these events must benefit the tenant from a revenue perspective.ÔÇØ
Managing a centre of this size with around sixty service providers, 232 tenants, the centreÔÇÖs staff, the management team and the owner Pareto Limited requires a considerable amount of communication and people skill. ÔÇ£Communication is the cornerstone of how weÔÇÖve been able to make the team function well,ÔÇØ Ntuli says, ÔÇ£and how weÔÇÖve been able to make the centre successful.ÔÇØ
The centre management team, a group of twenty-eight people representing all aspects of the operation, come together in daily and weekly meetings where everyone is kept informed, concerns are voiced and solutions are found for the challenges that arise.
The Pavilion undertakes a significant amount of market research so that it can target its efforts to providing exactly what the customers want. It does this through customer forums, its website, focus groups and the centreÔÇÖs information desk. It also quite aggressively examines the trends and changes in the retail marketplace in South Africa and internationally. ÔÇ£We make a point of being on top of those trends,ÔÇØ Ntuli says, ÔÇ£and when we take international trends we take care to add an element to them that is truly South African, so that our consumers can relate to the initiatives.ÔÇØ
Environmental awareness has been taking off significantly in South Africa recently, and The Pavilion has been examining ways of becoming more energy, water and material efficient. To this end, a public recycling facility has been opened at the centre. ÔÇ£WeÔÇÖre looking at how we educate our customers and service providers in order to recycle materials and save on utility usage. WeÔÇÖre also examining the building itself and the processes that take place within the building to see what can be done to improve them. And this may be something as simple as making sure the cleaning company uses environmentally-safe chemicals.ÔÇØ
Looking to the future, Ntuli believes there are always new and innovative ways of attracting consumers. ÔÇ£With the advent of the Facebook, Twitter and iPod generation, itÔÇÖs no longer just about traditional print media, radio and TV. WeÔÇÖre learning to reach a younger, hipper market because they are the people that drive the economy and consumerismÔÇöand to do this we have to think quite significantly outside the box.ÔÇØ
Thinking outside the box is something that The Pavilion has been doing throughout its sixteen-year history, and through a combination of this and good management, the centre and its tenants have avoided the worst effects of the global recession.