UMHLANGA’S GATEWAY TURNS 21!
When Gateway began to take shape at the top of Umhlanga Ridge, nay-sayers predicted that it would become a white elephant. Since then, it has transformed retail trends in the region and, together with other iconic developments such as the King Shaka International Airport and Dube TradePort, spearheaded massive development along Durban’s North Coast.
This week, Durban’s first mega mall is turning 21 – a massive milestone for a centre that not only changed shopping along the East Coast but continues to make its mark in KZN’s retail sector.
In keeping with its grand entrance more than two decades ago, Gateway celebrates along with an announcement of a multi-million rand upgrade to the entrance to the mall – all in the name of keeping its retail relevance.
Since Gateway’s launch twenty-one years ago, it has flourished as both a retail hub and a catalyst for economic development along the KZN North Coast. At its inception, Gateway played a fundamental role in the broader R3,5-billion plus development of the KZN North Coast. The R1.4-billion Gateway Theatre of Shopping was the ‘anchor tenant’ to the New Town Centre and remains one of the largest malls in the southern hemisphere and one of the top 100 largest malls in the world.
Chief executive officer of Old Mutual Properties (OMP), Sakina Nosarka said: “Gateway has proven to be one of the biggest retail success stories in the country. OMP’s bold decision in 1998 to build a super-regional mall in a field of sugarcane came with significant risks.”
Informed by the thinking behind the likes of the Mall of America and West Edmonton Mall, Gateway was envisaged like no other mall in South Africa at the time. Its architects designed it to open out onto Palm Boulevard and integrate with the evolving Umhlanga New Town precinct.
Since its opening in 2001, Gateway has grown from 118,000 sqm to 176,000 sqm. The centre opened its doors with 117 tenants and has grown to 370 retailers today, 54 whom have been trading since the onset.
It receives more than 2 million visitors per month.
Nosarka said that Gateway provides a base for over 7,500 formal jobs as well as seasonal work and supports a supply chain that is integral to the KZN economy. “Gateway has set an important example when it comes to growth and retail innovation as well as investment in sustainability, social inclusion and community,” she added.
It opened with the reminder that it was a theatre of shopping which combined both purchasing and entertainment.
To this day, the centre continues to consciously dedicate a large portion of its space to entertainment. This investment in the shopper experience not only introduced the concept of ‘shoppertainment’ to South Africa but also helped build a vibrant tourism industry in the region.
It has also maintained a consistently strong retail performance. Norsaka said that Gateway was currently seeing excellent growth year-to-date with turnover at 34% ahead of 2021 figures. Compared to pre-Covid levels in 2019, the centre was showing positive growth of over 21%.
With the shifts in retail trends and shopper behaviour during Gateway’s 21-year history, adjustments to tenant mix and the development of new spaces around the mall were key to its performance, according to Norsaka. “The centre has intentionally evolved over the years and continually responds to market demands to remain relevant and a major contributing factor to the property’s success.”
OMP invested R250-million in extensions to the South Mall in 2008. The Gateway Hotel and Virgin Active nodes were developed ahead of the 2010 World Cup. To increase capacity, the new Woolworths node was created in 2018 and the food court was relocated.
Stores like Zara, Skins Cosmetics, Mango, Dior and many others have chosen Gateway as the platform from which to launch their brands into the KZN market. “We believe our tenant mix is true to our customer needs. We host many “first and only” stores in KZN and attract desirable international brands. Many of our retailers invest in flagship stores at Gateway and offer an experiential store design,” Norsaka said.
Gateway’s 21st birthday celebration comes on the back of the announcement of a multi-million-rand upgrade of the Great Hall around its entrance axis as well as the two adjacent vaulted wings. This will be completed in two phases before and after the festive break.
Gateway is also investing in sustainability. In 2022, it decreased its energy consumption by 30%. This is in line with OMP’s aim for carbon neutrality within the next 20 years resulting in the replacement and upgrades to incorporate latest technologies and efficiencies – including lighting, sanitary ware, escalators, lifts and air conditioning chillers.
Norsaka concluded: “Gateway believes in partnerships and good business. Our successes are our retailers’, entrepreneurs’, suppliers’ and partners’ successes too. We aim to create sustained outcomes that drive growth, whilst strengthening our environment and the communities of which we are a part.”