The country’s shopping malls will have to be substantially more flexible with tenants and shoppers in the post-Covid-19 era.

That is the view of futurist Daniel Silke: “When it comes to malls, the pandemic has ensured that it is now time for the survival of the fittest. Only those with deep pockets, good balance sheets and agility will survive the lockdown and the drop in sales that will follow.
“Some money-making aspects such as parking fees will have to be reviewed or reduced to invite customers back into the malls, especially as money will be tight.”

Cape Union Mart chairman Phillip Krawitz said: “There will be fewer customers in malls as people will tend to avoid large public spaces. This gives the opportunity to spend more time with every customer and to perhaps give a better shopping experience to our clients as they go to our stores.

“Nothing will ever be the same again. Customers will come in and expect social distancing to be maintained, sanitisation will be extremely important, excellent service will dominate the entire theme, and care for our customers in terms of their safety will be a determining factor in terms of what stores will be visited.”

David Jenkins, the founding partner at Mickey Llew, a search engine optimisation agency, said: “People will still look for more comfortable desks and chairs to work from home. They want faster laptops for better efficiency now they are working remotely.

“These are some of the things people will be searching for as time goes on, and businesses must optimise their online presence to cope with the traffic they need for future success. Physical stores may contract in size in the near future as people opt for omni-channel engagement, where for instance the customer shops for a shirt online and just goes to the shop to try it on or to pick it up. Shopping is not going away, it will just be digital.”

Rudi Nienaber, the global Covid-19 response lead for Smollan, the retail solutions company, said: “Many of our malls are iconic retail brands in themselves, and they should be embracing online as such. In much the same way as they are physical landlords, they should be thinking of themselves as digital landlords, too.”

John Davenport, the chief creative officer at Havas Southern Africa, a global advertising company, said: “Perhaps the most profound change to the world of retail will be the possible permanent changes in consumer behaviour.

“The adoption of digital shopping has been somewhat slower to catch on than experts predicted 20 years ago. Habits die hard. But people have been forced to change their behaviour when it comes to shopping.”