Andreana Holmes, CEO of  The Blue Room, shares the company’s research and insights into what will bring shoppers back the shopping centres post-lockdown.

We engaged with 117 consumers to determine the driving force that would bring our shoppers back to our centres post-lockdown. The response was encouraging – customers are not planning on staying away from our Centres, but a hygienically clean and safe shopping environment will be the greatest motivator.

They expect Landlords to ensure that social distancing is adhered to and ample hand sanitisers are available throughout the Centre, including in restrooms. They also expect a dedicated cleaning team to sanitise bathroom door handles, escalator railings, and boom and lift buttons. Furthermore, they want to see every tenant take strict precautions, that staff wear masks and gloves, hand sanitiser dispensers are available when entering stores, and trolley handles are disinfected. A great benefit to customers would be to have their purchased items sanitised before leaving the store. Customers are on high COVID-19 alert and will slowly integrate shopping into their day-to-day lives. All respondents confirmed that their trips to centres will be brief post-lockdown, even though they are hungry to stroll around their favourite centre. We have to prepare ourselves that until this pandemic is over, customers won’t be lingering in our centres.

This ‘new way of shopping’ presents a unique opportunity to our retailers as more time can be invested in each shopper to enhance their overall shopping experience. Specialised one-on-one customer service will also be key.

We will be seeing behavioural changes in our consumers. South Africa has had a slower start to online shopping. Before COVID-19, online retailing only accounted for 1,4% of retail spending. Since COVID-19, we have seen a big shift towards online retailing, mainly consisting of cleaning and sanitation products.

However, Derek Cikes, commercial director of online payment gateway Payflex, says “We strongly believe the current health crisis will motivate people to overcome their inertia to learning and adopting online shopping. Once they experience the security, simplicity and convenience of  shopping in the online environment, the virtual world will become more familiar to them and they will be more inclined to choose the ease of online shopping even after the pandemic has ended.”

A current demand from consumers is ‘same day click and collect services’, as consumers may want the convenience of online shopping but with the benefit of a quick outing and receiving their goods the same day.

An article in the Cape Argus on 17/04/2020 confirmed our findings. Futurist, Daniel Silke, stated: “When it comes to malls, the pandemic has ensured that it is now time for the survival of the fittest. Only those with deep pockets, good balance sheets and agility will survive the lockdown and the drop in sales that will follow.

“Some money-making aspects, such as parking fees, will have to be reviewed or reduced to invite customers back into the malls, especially as money will be tight.

“Nothing will ever be the same again. Customers will come in and expect social distancing to be maintained, sanitisation will be extremely important, excellent service will dominate the entire theme, and care for our customers in terms of their safety will be a determining factor in terms of what stores will be visited.

“Physical stores may contract in size in the near future as people opt for omni-channel engagement, where for instance the customer shops for a shirt online and just goes to the shop to try it on or to pick it up. Shopping is not going away, it will just be digital.”

What do our respondents want?


■             32-year-old female | Measures implemented to ensure social distancing, especially when it comes to standing in queues at tills. Wipes to clean trolleys and baskets. Hand sanitiser points at entrances and exits of the centre. ATMs, elevators and even escalators should also have someone consistently disinfect them as people are unable to avoid touching these.

■            34-year-old female | I don’t really have money at the moment to spend. We will only go to the  shop to buy food for the family.

■             27-year-old male | The giveaways should be charitable – giving to those less fortunate, or giving shoppers a platform to contribute.

■            42-year old female | Enforced or encouraged social distancing in addition to stringent hygiene measures (with a visible show of regular cleaning and disinfection). Perhaps add a bright colour to your health and hygiene worker uniforms. It’s a visual cue that will have a subconscious effect. Same-day click and collect service as people may want the convenience of online shopping but with the benefit of a quick outing and receiving groceries the same day. I realise this is not necessarily something the centre could implement and would be reliant on the retailers. Reduced parking fees or free parking for the first hour. Parking is always going to be a grudge “purchase” so remove it.

■             41-year-old female | Masks, sanitiser and social distancing. Specials to be placed near tills for impulse buys and service to reduce time in queues, as people would want to get in and    out as fast as possible.

■             62-year-old female | Sanitisers at entrances of stores, signage to remind people to keep their distance, sneeze into arm, wash hands. Sanitise trolleys.

■             94-year-old female | I need to look after my health, so the most important thing to me is to know that the centre is hygienically clean and safe.

■          43-year-old female | Wherever I can get in and out quickest where stock is available. Keep booms open, so to prevent everyone from touching the same button. People are going to feel the pinch after lockdown – there won’t be money for glitz and glam.

■             38-year-old female | I live in an informal settlement. The most important reason to get me back to a shopping centre after lockdown is to know that the centre is hygienically clean and safe for  me. It will be nice to have specials, but I will sacrifice specials for hygiene.

■             26-year-old female | I’ll be very strict when it comes to wearing a mask, gloves and carrying hand sanitiser. I will only go back to a mall if I know strenuous hygiene measurers are in place.

■             48-year-old male | When new infection rates in our area are down to zero for a couple of weeks in a row, and strict social distancing measures are in place at the shops, then I’d go shopping again.

■             57-year-old female | My number one priority is a clean and hygienically safe environment. It would be nice to win something in a competition.

■             35-year-old female | Due to all the families we’re looking after, I would like specials on groceries.

■             44-year-old male | Health safety would be the main issue for me. For the next eight months at least, until there’s a vaccine. Specials would be next on the list, because people will be struggling with money.

■             32-year-old female | How strongly they enforce safety regulations on the people who visit the centre and shops – that will motivate me when I return to shopping centres.

■             35-year-old female | I have very little money left, so specials won’t help me. I would like to know and see that the centre is hygienically safe.

■             46-year-old female | Hygienically clean and safe environment. I like the idea of decorated shop windows, but not necessarily to entice me, but something fresh and new. Just welcoming people back, just something happy. People’s spirits need to be lifted again.

■             62-year-old male | Hygiene is my number one priority.

■             39-year-old female | The centre must be hygienically clean. It would also be nice to buy for a    certain amount and get something free.

■             40-year-old female | After lockdown we’re going to be in the habit of spending less and will   definitely shop for specials. I won’t have any luxuries on my shopping list for quite a while. Our available budgets will inform our spend. Beautifully decorated shop windows draw me in. I will always visit a shop that has gone to a lot of trouble.

■             52-year-old female | Supermarkets to be properly stocked so that I don’t have to go to three shops, for example, to get what I want. I don’t think I’ll be shopping for pleasure for many months, so just want to get in and out. I don’t think I’ll be browsing for clothes and hanging    around in any other shops until the crisis is mostly over.

■             40-year-old female | The number one thing is to know that the centre is hygienically safe and clean. Then I would also love to win groceries.

■             48-year-old male | I’d like to enter a competition where I could win a slot to go shop an hour earlier than the shops open.

■             30-something male | The first thing that would get me to go back to shopping centres would be to get a meal with my family at a restaurant or to get takeaways.

■             31-year-old female | I would be motivated to go back to buy some new clothes, due to all those   stores being closed during lockdown.

■             46-year-old female | I will just be happy to see the shops open again. I wouldn’t do competitions now – it may attract too many people.

■             50-year-old male | Hygienically safe and clean, specials, giveaways.

■             46-year-old male | Life is not going to be the same post-lockdown. More sales are going to happen online.

■             42-year-old female | Specials and giveaways. Groceries should be made cheaper.

■            50-something female | To buy winter clothes.

■            43-year-old male | I would be the happiest person if I could just sit in a coffee shop again. And a special or two will be great.

■             40-something female | Specials, giveaways, and hygiene – in that order.

■             30-something male | I would like to go to restaurants and take-aways.

■             48-year-old male | After lockdown is lifted the virus will still be around. There is no short-term   solution. Shops will still need to have sanitisers and trolley wipes available. Social distancing   should still be kept in place. Comfortable seating outside the shops. Priority should be given to   the elderly and disabled people, as well as parents with babies. Shops should not inflate their   prices. Perhaps flea market type tables in malls where locals who have been most affected by   lockdown can sell their goods.

■             28-year-old female | That the centre is hygienically clean. Would buy food and clothes. Would be nice if there is a competition where I can win vouchers for food.

■             75-year-old female | We have a choice of three supermarkets in our mall and at the moment we  support only one because of their excellent safety measures. Post-lockdown? Of course, we’ll be   influenced by specials. How about better communication between Mall Management and   customers – Facebook, SMS, etc. for general news about shops.

■             34-year-old female | Specials will get me to go back to the shops after lockdown. The most important specials to me are food specials and specials on baby clothes.

■             47-year-old female | Specials, especially in terms of food, will be excellent. Many people in our communities will be hungry post-lockdown, and it’s our responsibility as a community to feed them.

■             30-something female | Specials, giveaways, and competitions – in that order.

■             32-year-old female | I will go back to the shops like before lockdown for my food, clothes, airtime and data. I am not scared of the coronavirus because we have other things to be scared of   like no work, our safety and other illnesses.

■             48-year-old female | Staff to sanitise regularly, wear masks, gloves, wipe down trolleys and counters. If our products could be sanitised at the tills, that would be awesome. Will save me having to do it at home.

■             23-year-old male | Sanitizers to feel safe and specials as I will be low on income.

■             24-year-old female | Specials specifically in the liquor and clothing stores.

■             48-year-old female | Firstly cigarettes and clothes for my daughter. And maybe to walk around just to get out, but not for long.

■             30-year-old female | I will go back for clothes and I want food to be cheaper at spazas and stores.

In summary, centres can survive and even thrive if we embrace the new normal by following international best practices regarding health and safety protocols and adapt to the changes in consumer behaviour. Our customers are yearning for beauty and fresh experiences post-lockdown. Let’s add colour to their world with excellent customer service and innovative ways to delight them!

The Blue Room offers a wide range of retail and corporate marketing solutions, as well as communication that will elevate your brand. Interested in what we can do for you? Click here to view our full list of retail and communications services.

To find out more – and to give your business the edge – call us on 021 553 0315 / email

Written by Andreana Holmes: CEO, The Blue Room