As it appeared in the daily nation of April 7th 2015
The first time I visited a shopping mall was in the 1990s. I visited Sarit Centre in the company of my nephews; our main attraction was the play area. I do not remember much about the experience though. Today, visiting a mall has become part of everyday living and to many it is an experience. Many Kenyans shop, dine, watch a movie, go to the bank and see a doctor at the various malls. Since all these services are under one roof, it makes it easier for the customers to shop and to get other service conveniently.
Across Nairobi and in other major towns in Kenya several malls both small and large have come up in the last decade and many others are under construction. This year Kenya will witness the opening of East Africa’s largest malls Garden City on Thika Road and Two Rivers mall in Runda. The main attraction to shopping malls was originally convenience but today the many malls across the globe harbour some of the best shopping and leisure experiences. Each shopping mall offers a distinctively unique shopping experience. It is no longer just about the convenience of finding everything under one roof.
The shopping experience at the mall stems from mall design to retailer mix to the customer-interactions in specific retail outlets. Popular local brands such as Nukumatt and Nairobi Java House as well as international retail outlets are well represented in most of these malls. Both the retail outlets as well as the malls themselves are an attraction. There are customers who simply like visiting a particular mall while others like visiting a particular store within the mall. Malls are an attraction to the locals as well as domestic and foreign tourists. Many of us proudly take our relatives and friends visiting from out of the country to the malls. The malls are a growing attraction. Some of the best customer experiences in Kenya and elsewhere are seen at the malls. Families and friends are spending quality time at the malls. It seems the malls are slowly forming communities around them. I am convinced that these malls will stir better customer-experiences in Kenya as they compete with each other and as outlets within the malls compete with one another.
What is the future of malls in Kenya? Across the globe newer malls are taking a more modern approach based on the overall customer experience. It is no wonder that old malls in the USA are completely shutting down due to low traffic flow while others are remodelling to give them a more modern feel. Many of those visiting the malls in the future will look for an experience that goes beyond traditional shopping. The Mall of American in Minnesota USA which is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world for example is getting closer and closer to amusement parks. In Kenya, It is likely that both the malls and the retail outlets within the malls will reach out to their customers in a more intentional way. We are likely to see a greater focus on the customer as well as growth in customized offers for specific malls. I have no doubt that the future malls will offer a much better experience than their predecessors.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on email@example.com/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy