A recent report dubbed Kenya Market Update by Knight Frank, a property consultancy firm, reveals the thin edge on which many shopping malls having operating, at least for the last two years.

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Between 2013 and 2017 there was an unprecedented euphoric mall-frenzy among many urban Kenyans leading to the sprouting of many malls in various towns more so in Kiambu and Nairobi counties.

In Kiambu, for instance, some of the notable malls that came into being during this period include among others, Ananas Mall in Thika, Two Rivers Mall in Ruaka, Thika Road Mall (TRM) and Juja City Mall.

The Knight Frank report shows that some of these malls have been unable to attract enough tenants to fill much of the available space which has seen them resort to desperate measures like giving free space, free parking and low rent in an attempt to woo clients.

But as the report further indicates, these measures haven't achieved much to reignite the dying embers of the mall hysteria that hit its climax in 2017. 

So, what does the report attribute to the decline of malls' popularity and preference as shopping destinations among Kenyans?

1. Oversupply

The report says that continued 'oversupply' of malls in some areas notably Nairobi’s prime residential market put pressure on prices and rents, resulting in declines beginning 2018. This is quite understandable from the law of demand and supply, which is self-explanatory.

2. Kenyans' shopping culture

It is estimated that even in populous urban areas like Nairobi, less than 10 per cent of Kenyans shop in supermarkets, one of the major tenants of malls.

With too many malls for a target conservative population yet to be popular with supermarkets, leave alone exhibition stores inside the malls, you can understand where the rain began to beat the mall investors.

3. Old habits die hard

The impressive reception of the initial malls may have wrongly led the mall investors to believe that the Kenyans were ripe for the idea of shopping under one roof. 

Apparently, they were deceived by the mall-frenzy phenomenon that has since melted down, after the typical Kenyan shopper retreated to his/her usual local kiosk/shop in the neighbourhood where s/he is at least assured of obtaining goods on credit to pay at an agreed future date. Breaking this culture can be an uphill task.