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Small SA retailers to get a boost

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18 Jan 2012

South African-based Retail Network Services (RNS) is committed to help develop independent retailers in its new shopping centres.

The full-service specialist retail leasing company will be giving all independent retailers in its new shopping centres a full year’s membership to the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC).

Gavin Tagg of RNS explains that it is in every property owner’s, manager’s and broker’s interest to have a competitive, diverse and flourishing retail sector - not only large national retailers, but independent retailers, line shops and entrepreneurial start-ups.

The full-service specialist retail leasing company will be giving all independent retailers in its new shopping centres a full year’s membership to the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC).

SACSC is an organisation which strives to generate, educate and stimulate retailers and equip them with tools that can enhance their businesses.

“Often new independent shop owners don’t have a full understanding of what they are getting in to and there are few resources available to support them,” says Tagg.

He says the first year of any business is a crucial make-or-break time, and it is RNS’s goal to give independent retailers access to as much support and know-how as possible during this critical period.

“We believe that our retailer support initiative will result in promoting better quality retail in South Africa and empower a generation of more sustainable retailers,” says Tagg.

RNS is familiar with the challenges of independent retailers.

They ensure that tenant mix is crafted to suit each of its shopping centre's unique footprint - with successes such as the likes of Pan Africa Shopping Centre in Alexandra, Mdantsane City in East London, Tsakane Mall in Springs and Jabulani Mall in Soweto.

He notes that there are plenty of retail ideas but most of these never hit the shelves.

If they do, it is often a major battle to make it happen and then to overcome the growing pains to become a sustainable retail entity.

“Even with a great product or service, retail entrepreneurs face obstacles in becoming sustainable entities without the best management or financial knowledge”.

This is another reason that retail entrepreneurs need all the support they can get, he says.

Independent retailers are further challenged by an unforgiving shopping centre trading environment.

Tagg points out that the returns-driven nature of shopping centres inhibits rather than promotes retail start-ups and new entrepreneurial concepts.

He says the first year of any business is a crucial make-or-break time, and it is RNS’s goal to give independent retailers access to as much support and know-how as possible during this critical period.

It offers little, if any, support to independent retailers and they want to change this.

Amanda Stops, general manager of the SACSC, says this kind of retailer support is precisely one of the services that the council provides.

The SACSC strives to be responsive to the challenges, opportunities and successes of the retail sector and provide a hub of insightful networking, ideas, solutions and tools to empower our members and ultimately foster better retail in South Africa, says Stops.

SACSC is also affiliated to the International Council of Shopping Centres, its resources represent the latest retail trends and tools from around the world.

RNS has already implemented this retailer support at Edendale Mall in Pietermaritzburg, sponsoring SACSC memberships for some 35 retailers and will soon be extending this benefit to retailers at its projects in Protea Glen, Elim and Diepkloof.

Tagg believes that empowering independent retailers could also be a catalyst in reversing the retail monotony, which South African consumers are increasingly being faced with.

He says shopping is not dashing around for groceries, it is an experience.

To be relevant, retail should be fresh because shopping is about enjoying, engaging and discovering.

“If all our shopping centres offer exactly the same retail, because the establishment of independent retailers is constrained, it will take the uniqueness and attractiveness out of different shopping experiences.”

Ensuring a fresh flow of exciting retail concepts that meet consumer needs and reflect current trends is well-accepted as the underpin of any successful retail centre and this is what the RNS initiative hopes to foster.

He adds that ultimately, everyone stands to win – retailers, shopping centre owners and consumers.

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