If Nairobi is experiencing a glut in shopping malls, then KAPS would the first to know. The company enjoys a near monopoly in managing parking lots for malls in the country – and with that, collect tonnes of data on mall traffic. I spent the better part of the December holiday and early this year rummaging through mall trash bins to find this data.
The escapade started off in Nanyuki town at Nanyuki Mall, then to United Mall in Kisumu, through to Zion Mall in Eldoret and finally to eight malls in Nairobi. In the excursion, I came to realise that the ease of finding disposed tickets varied with each mall. However, a pattern started to build up – malls with outdoor activities had fewer disposed tickets than the ones without. So I started paying attention to how each mall is utilising its extra space.
If you are observant, you’ll notice that Sarit Center, Yaya Center and The Junction Mall recently expanded their parking space. These malls would have opted to use their extra space to host bouncing castles but they didn’t, which points to the priority given to parking. The Junction Mall just acquired Riara parking lot next to the mall to increase its parking capacity. On the flipside, when a mall has more outdoor activities it screams ‘we don’t have many cars coming in’. Next time you spot a mall with lots of space allocated to outdoor activities, do know car traffic isn’t doing good. Example of such malls include:
- Greenspan Mall
- Garden City
- Prestige Plaza
On the way to collect these tickets at Yaya Centre, I found out that the mall does not use the services of KAPS rather a competitor known as Pay-N-Go. I was rather disappointed for the break in analysis consistency but I came upon an interesting piece of knowledge. I struck a conversation with someone privy to shop leasing at the mall and he told me that the management use cameras within the building to track foot traffic on each shop and use that to price the monthly rent. If foot traffic goes up, the rent goes up. I was impressed – it also shows if the management presents these numbers to the tenants then they are confident the mall is doing great.
Once I had the data nicely entered into Excel I began to think what sort of analysis to conduct. The idea was inspired by an economic measure known as Price Elasticity of Demand – it tracks how much the demand for a commodity changes for every unit change in price when all factors remain constant (ceteris paribus). If you consider parking space in a mall as a commodity, you can measure how much is in demand by the amount charged for it and the effect on it utilization. From the data, two malls (Adlife Plaza and The Green House) increased their minimum charge to Kshs 100 for the first hour while The Junction, Prestige and Yaya charge Kshs 50 for the first hour.
In consumer theory availability of substitute goods (other malls) that are cheaper should drive people to other malls and reduce demand from the high priced ones. However, this is not the case, Adlife Plaza processes 1 car every 7 minutes on average. To extrapolate this phenomenon, part of the underlying reason could be there are unique brands outlets that can only be found at Adlife plaza. A good example is NewsCafe restaurant, if another mall would be built that would host NewsCafe, there would be loyal adherents who will follow the brand. Given Adlife Plaza doesn’t have space for outdoor activities, it thus caters for a different demographics.
On average, people spend 65 minutes at a mall with most mall entries happening between 3:00 pm and 6 pm, and another spike at 8:00 pm. These times can provide a proxy on what people do at malls. The high arrival times in the evening points coupled with the average time spent shows most people go to grocery and house shopping. Another interesting phenomenon is that 12 percent of the tickets had cars that spent less than 10 minutes in the malls – I formulated an opinion that these must be Uber pickups, perhaps from folks who have shopped and need to carry the heavy luggage home.
The other surge in arrival happens at 8:00 pm, a good hypothesis would be folks who partake in evening culinary delights. I suppose data from Java House and Art Cafe can corroborate this observation. So far, it is right to say most malls in Kenya are supported by the anchor tenant and food outlets. Another factor that’s worth of interest connected to a mall’s performance is the denomination used to pay the parking fee.
In a concept known as Denomination Effects, a theory is put forth that states, people spend more when they break a large currency into the smaller denomination. Unofficially it is known as The New York Street Tax. From the KAPS data, people start paying the tickets with large bills from 3:00 pm as shown in the diagram below. This means more spontaneous spending in the evening. Thus a surviving mall must exhibit the above characteristics. Who’s not in the pattern?
Foursquare has data on the time with most popular check-ins. I pulled the data several malls to compare their peak hours. The Junction Mall pattern is similar to the KAPS data and Prestige Foursquare data matches The Junction which indicates similar use. However, The Green House mall has a different pattern, the peak hours are 9:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 4:00 pm. This suggests the mall isn’t attracting the same crowd – the 9:00 pm peak suggests office arrivals. It can be concluded then that The Green House has more office than recreational facilities. These include private doctor offices, pharmacies, lawyers et cetera.
There are 3 types of malls in Nairobi, the family outdoor friendly, the office block mall and recreational non-family mall. Do we have a saturation of them? – Not yet, we need to have at least three of each of these within the same neighbourhood to reach saturation. I asked an American entrepreneur whether we are likely to experience a mall glut similar to the US, his response was “the city is 15 years away from experiencing a glut”.
Access the data here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/3tulherclaevx1q/kaps.csv?dl=0
Cover image courtesy of: https://missgaceru.com