Most shopping centre managers are currently investigating extended shopping hours in their particular centres. Over many years the pattern of 9 to 5 has established itself in the South African retail environment. It is very difficult to change this well entrenched habit of shoppers, shopkeepers and the general public.
Many of the new centres now already implement longer trading hours on weekday eveinings up to 21:00. Many of the shopping centres, large and small, are still operating on a 9 to 5 basis. The need for extended business hours has emerged mainly because of changes in shopping behaviour with more working women, to socialise more outside the house and the availability of more eating places, pubs and restaurants. Entertainment as part of a shopping centre also plays a very important role in the demand for extended business hours.
Graph 1 indicates the preferred time to conduct shopping by a large sample of shoppers supporting a regional centre. A distinction was made between a daytime and night-time shopper. It is clear that there is a distinct difference between the two interview groups. Afternoon shopping is the one time where most overlap occurs. The afternoon and night-time shopper is probably the group that will make best use of extended business hours.
From Graph 2 it is clear that a shift will occur resulting in lower daytime support and a longer extended afternoon support into early evening.
Based on a large number of surveys conducted on the matter of extended shopping hours it is fair to assume that at least 25-35% of shoppers will shop at night time. Over time this will however increase. Customers will get used to the fact the centres are open and because of changing life styles will also change their shopping behaviour. The success of extended shopping hours will be determined by the size of the centre, the type of entertainment facilities, the availability of transport to the centre ands the socio-economic profile of the shoppers as well as the commitment of all tenants to remain open. Comments from centre managers where longer hours have been implemented is that larger volumes of pedestrians are going through the centre and all shops are much busier.
In a number of research studies conducted by URBAN STUDIES regarding extended shopping hours, the need for extended hours has been mentioned by the respondents. It is however not as easy as this, mainly because of the expectation of shoppers but without any real support during the extended hours. It is however of utmost importance to realise that the implementation of extended shopping hours, especially during the week, is a long term project and shopping patterns and behaviour do not change overnight.
All shopping centre owners and managers must embark on policies for longer trading hours especially during the week. It is also important not to overdo it and to take cognisance of the area in which the shopping centre is located.
In research conducted at some of the bigger centres in the country, it was clearly indicated that where extended trading hours are in place, the late afternoon shopper also becomes an evening shopper (See graph). This must be regarded as a very positive trend and shopping centre managers must therefore encourage this type of extended shopping behaviour.
Based on a number of surveys conducted the following broad recommendations can be made regarding extended shopping hours:
- that all shopping centre managers strongly consider later trading hours during weekdays, at least until 18:00;
- it is of utmost importance that all tenants participate in this effort. In some centres some of the anchor tenants stay open later than others and that is very confusing to the shoppers. Shopping hours must rather be phased in but with the participation of all the tenants;
- shopping centre managers must not expect to be successful immediately;
- shopping patterns and behaviour take time to change and it must be regarded as a long-term project. In most cases 12 – 18 months is the time normally required to establish changes in shopping behaviour.
For centres to be successful in extended trading hours, enough must be on offer to attract the shoppers, to keep them there longer and to give them an experience at that time of the day that they do come back and that this becomes an entrenched pattern of shopping. Together with this, centre managers will have to focus on transport for employees as well as increased security facilities at the centres. Five years from now we will definitely see a change in shopping behaviour and longer trading hours will definitely enhance centre performance in the long run.
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