The number of shopping malls in the Gauteng Province has more than doubled in 15 years from 2001 – 2016 far outstripping the rate of population growth in a development that may be interpreted as unsustainable if not a bubble in the making.
That picture emerges from the comprehensive report compiled by the Gauteng City Region Observatory (GCRO), a research institution attached to the University of the Witwatersrand. The report literally maps out Gauteng’s malls and shopping centers against population growth and density.
As reflected in the table below the report shows that the province’s population grew by 62% from 8.8 million to 14.2 million between 2001 and 2016. Whilst the number of shopping mass (mega/major regional shopping centers) more than doubled from 222 to 448. And the number of shopping centres grew by 43% from 1086 to 1546.
The report notes that “the growth in the number of malls has outpaced increases in population.”
In 2001, says the report, there were about 40 000 people for every mall. Now there are less than 32 000 people for every mall. “Meanwhile, shopping centres have not grown quite as fast as population but there are nevertheless around 9000 people for every shopping centre.”
The following table shows shopping malls, centres and informal trading structures 2001-2016 (Source: GTI Building Based Land Use)
The reports also notes that shopping malls and centres have not grown as fast as other kinds of retail. “Informal trading structures, for example, have more than tripled in number between 2001 and 2016.
The report features maps that shows distribution of new malls against population income and density. From these maps three observations can be made about the growth of malls and shopping centres in Gauteng, says the report. As reflec ted in the graph below, these points are:
- Some shopping malls and centres have appeared in long established urban areas.
- Some new malls and shopping centres occur in areas of recent growth dominated by middle class residential expansion, such as a band of development running from the eastern edge of Pretoria down through Midrand, and across the north-western edge of Johannesburg to Krugersdorp.
- Some – but comparatively few – of the new malls and shopping centres are located in townships such as Soshanguve, Mamelodi, and Soweto.
The maps also show that malls and shopping centres follow income levels rather than residential densities, says the report. The latter map shows that “townships, which have high population densities, have relatively few malls and shopping centres, while many suburbs, with low population densities, have a large quantity of shopping malls and centres.”
And the map below shows that the location of shopping malls and centers cluster in areas with higher household incomes.
The report concludes by noting that “the spatial distribution in the growth of shopping malls and centres might be welcome news to some and worrying for others.”
For supporters, says the report, malls bring development because they are major investments in a space, they increase retail choice and they employ people. “For those who hold this view, the relative absence of mall development in areas with lower average incomes and higher population densities reflects and compounds the city-region’s historical spatial divisions. For detractors, shopping malls and centres are a threat to smaller, independent and informal retailers and they represent a shift in retail towards ever more unsustainable levels and forms of consumption.”
This article was lifted from consumer affairs platform SATopShops