The statistics speak volumes. Ascencia’s six shopping centres attract more than twenty million visitors annually. The company, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, strives to create pleasant, convenient, comfortable and safe places. They have become highly popular spots for all Mauritians and tourists visiting the island. Developed in close partnership with Enatt and Atterbury, a 7th mall will be inaugurated in September 2019 in Beau Vallon.
Whether on your own, with friends or family, shopping malls now hold a prominent place in the lives of Mauritians. In the past few years, they have undergone a transformation, from pure retail experiences into spaces buzzing with life, culture and entertainment. One of the reasons for this undeniable success is the changes in the Mauritian lifestyle.
With the ever-increasing pace of life, customers have become more demanding and are in a hurry. “They won’t spend hours in traffic jams anymore to find the right shop or parking space. Time is so precious nowadays and shopping malls have become an ideal destination: they allow customers to satisfy most of their needs under one roof,” says Anabelle Koenig, the then Centre Manager at So’Flo, which was inaugurated in November 2017.
Experience is the keyword
However, shopping malls offer more than mere convenience. Running errands, shopping or eating out at a shopping mall is now an experience, often offering a fun, relaxing break for the entire family. Since their introduction in the 1990s, the architecture of shopping malls has significantly improved. “Previously, there were no leisure facilities, for example. There was the anchor tenant, a supermarket, and a few other shops,” says Leo Couacaud, an anthropologist and lecturer at the University of Mauritius who is currently studying the long-term transformational effect of these places on various aspects of Mauritian society.
A wide variety of shops now sit alongside food courts that invite visitors to discover culinary delights from all around the world. They have been complemented by play areas for children, cinemas, sports facilities and more recently, wellness centres.
Lifestyle and culture venues
“They have today become destinations for leisure and entertainment, and I think they make a significant contribution to society. Food courts are a good example, allowing families to spend time together after a hard day’s work or on weekends. They have been such a success that they could be seen as anchors, much like supermarkets,” adds the researcher.
With some 700,000 visitors each month, Bagatelle Mall perfectly illustrates this new phenomenon. This generously spaced mall offers a pleasant environment through a modern architecture combining various natural materials. “Our customers visit us several times a month, and we provide a different environment each time with the events and cultural exchanges that we host. They always find a different activity and our staff pay special attention to customer service,” says Gino Sanasee, the Centre Manager of Bagatelle Mall.
The mall conducts regular customer surveys and there is a growing trend: “Our customers come to the mall to do their errands, their shopping and eat. In 75% of cases, they do all three,” says Gino Sanasee. “Many of them also like to walk around the mall with family or friends before stopping by the food court for a bite.”
Looking to the future
New technologies and social networks have played a key role in this development. Wi-Fi access has become a common feature in shopping malls and now has an essential contribution to the customer experience. Social networks are the public’s main source of information about what’s happening in our mall before interacting. “This modern communication tool creates a direct connection between the mall and its public,” says Anabelle Koenig.
Shopping malls are resolutely turned towards the future and are at the core of certain smart city developments, such as Bagatelle Mall. “We will be a key player in the Moka Smart City through creating more jobs and further strengthening our position as an investment platform offering real opportunities for businesses and brand development,” says Gino Sanasee.