(East London) – Forget a sluggish national economy. Township retail is booming as major brands invest amid stalled CBD and suburban growth.
One such case in point is Mdantsane’s biggest retail node, Mdantsane City Shopping Centre, which has established itself as a hotbed of retail activity.
General manager Dean Deary said foot traffic had increased by 4% this year alone and that the 36 000m2 mall had shown consistent year-on-year growth throughout its nine-year history and was now effectively fully tenanted.
“Mdantsane City turned nine years old in April and I am extremely proud to see the investment and buy-in of our local community that has helped the centre reach this milestone. We have one vacancy left, which has been offered to a prospective tenant.”
The success recently prompted Famous Brands to expand its investment by establishing the area’s first Wimpy restaurant, which is scheduled to open in June. The centre already boasts sister brand, Debonairs.
“This new addition will add to the already growing foot traffic and increased turnovers for our tenants, while delivering exciting, quality brands for our shoppers,” said Deary.
Mdantsane-born entrepreneur Sakhumzi Klassen is the driving force behind the Wimpy initiative. The 41-year-old franchisee, who has various business interests in the former township area, believes the Wimpy franchise is a tangible sign of growing investor confidence by big brands in Mdantsane.
“Mdantsane is a very interesting place, and I would like to see it reach the levels of other similar townships such as Soweto,” he said. “It is currently not at its rightful place socially, economically or from a growth point of view.”
Klassen said his latest venture would help to address this by creating 20 permanent jobs, with at least another five part-time openings depending on its stability and growth.
“We urge the community to come and support this business, as it will support more than 30 local families if you also consider the suppliers who will benefit from it.”
For Klassen, the arrival of a brand like Wimpy has been “a long time coming”, as there are what he terms “restro lounges” in Mdantsane but no fast food restaurants offering seated dining.
“Customers can look forward to an experience on par with, or even better than, any other Wimpy in the suburbs. The location of the restaurant within the mall is stunning and I’m sure customers are going to love it.”
Famous Brands’ managing executive for the Eastern Cape, Mark Hedderwick, said the Wimpy brand had evolved from a traditional “breakfast and burger joint” into a modernised, value-for-money restaurant with the addition of meat and chicken grills to the menu.
“Mdantsane Shopping Centre is without doubt the destination of choice for the local community, which affords us a great opportunity to ‘take the brand to the people’.”