Shopping malls and centres in Gauteng

The growth in Gauteng’s urban area since 2001 has been accompanied by a steep increase in shopping malls and centres. From 2001 to 2016, the number of malls more than doubled, while shopping centres – more plentiful to start with – increased by 43% (Table 1). (In the spatial dataset on which this analysis is based, a mall refers to a 'major regional shopping centre and all associated buildings' while a shopping centre is a 'smaller shopping centre and all associated buildings'.) The growth in the number of malls has outpaced increases in population. In 2001, there were about 40000 people for every mall. Now there are less than 32000 people for every mall. Meanwhile, shopping centres have not grown quite as fast as population but there are nevertheless around 9000 people for every shopping centre.

Table 1: Shopping malls, centres and informal trading structures 2001-2016 (Source: GTI Building Based Land Use)


The following maps show the distribution of both shopping malls and centres combined into a single layer. From the outset, we note that these maps depict only one broad kind of retail in the province. Indeed, shopping malls and centres have not grown as fast as other kinds of retail. Informal trading structures, for example, have more than tripled in number between 2001 and 2016 (Table 1). Furthermore there is a great deal of differentiation between various shopping malls and centres in their sizes and in the markets they serve. With these considerations in mind the purpose of the following maps is to show the distribution of the broad category of shopping malls and centres in relation to urban growth, population density and income.

Map 1 shows the growth of shopping malls and centres in the province. Blue dots indicate shopping malls and centres that existed by 2001 while red dots indicate those that were built between 2001 and 2016. We can make three observations about the growth of malls and shopping centres in Gauteng. First, some shopping malls and centres have appeared in long established urban areas. Second, some new malls and shopping centres occur in areas of recent growth dominated by middle class residential expansion, such as a band of development running from the eastern edge of Pretoria down through Midrand, and across the north-western edge of Johannesburg to Krugersdorp. Third, some – but comparatively few – of the new malls and shopping centres are located in townships such as Soshanguve, Mamelodi, and Soweto.

Map 1: The growth of malls and shopping centres in Gauteng.

Maps 2 and 3 show that malls and shopping centres follow income levels rather than residential densities. Map 2 shows the location of shopping malls and centres in relation to residential population densities across the province, based on 2011 data. Townships, which have high population densities, have relatively few malls and shopping centres, while many suburbs, with low population densities, have a large quantity of shopping malls and centres. Map 3 shows that the location of shopping malls and centres cluster in areas with higher household incomes.

Map 2: The location of malls in relation to population densities

Map 3: The location of malls in relation to median income

The spatial distribution in the growth of shopping malls and centres might be welcome news to some and worrying for others. For supporters, malls bring development because they are major investments in a space, they increase retail choice and they employ people. For those who hold this view, the relative absence of mall development in areas with lower average incomes and higher population densities reflects and compounds the city-region's historical spatial divisions. For detractors, shopping malls and centres are a threat to smaller, independent and informal retailers and they represent a shift in retail towards ever more unsustainable levels and forms of consumption.

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