Reinvention of Ballito Lifestyle Centre

At a presentation to the Ballito Lifestyle Centre tenants on Wednesday, 22 February, Bruce Rencken unveiled plans to redevelop the centre that has been at the heart of Ballito since 2003. In the face of massive change to the retail environment on the North Coast, Rencken presented a number of facts and figures as well as the new vision and strategy for the centre that had tenants excited about the future.

The reality, with the launch of the expanded Ballito Junction, is that there will be a significant impact on both Ballito and the Ballito Lifestyle Centre. Rencken believes that the growth in Ballito will, in time, allow both the Lifestyle Centre and the Junction to co-exist, each providing their own unique offering and catering for different shopping needs and providing a different shopping experience. “There are, however, some immediate concerns,” he stated, “the two biggest being the impact on the road network at the entrance to Ballito and the ability of the market in the short term to support this massive increase in retail space.”

Rencken confirmed that a number of national tenants, the majority being fashion retailers, will be vacating the Ballito Lifestyle Centre from 19 March 2017. This equates to 26 tenants, 30% of the current tenant base. However, more than 70% of the tenant base will remain at Lifestyle Centre, including key anchor tenants Lifestyle SUPERSPAR, Woolworths Foodmarket, Lifestyle TOPS, Mica Home and Garden Centre and Alpha Pharmacy, thereby retaining over 80% of the centre’s retail turnover.

To complement these existing key tenants, Rencken revealed the big brands that will be opening their doors at Lifestyle Centre this year: Dischem (1 600m2), Baby City (1 100m2), Sportsmans Warehouse (1 400m2) and Toy Zone (800m2). “These 4 big brands are closely aligned to our vision of providing everyday convenience and simplicity of shopping, and celebrating family and life the Ballito way,” he said. “The combined turnover of these four big brands will exceed the total turnover of fashion retailers leaving Lifestyle Centre. Furthermore, there are a number of other concluded deals and deals at advanced negotiations which will ensure that Lifestyle Centre retains its position as the neighbourhood convenience centre in Ballito, with easy access, convenient and free parking, and a great selection of stores, to be enjoyed in our unique outdoor environment.”

Rencken then revealed the strategy and detailed plans that he and his team have been working on over the past 18 months to redefine, reinvent and reposition Lifestyle Centre. “We were the dominant shopping centre in Ballito for 13 years but now the Ballito Junction is a reality and will play the role of a regional shopping centre,” he stated. “We will now differentiate ourselves. We will NOT become a Value Centre, instead we will provide the discerning Ballito shopper with an upmarket, unique and experiential offering. Our focus will be on food, family fine-dining, an artisanal food market, boutique fashion and style, connecting friends and family, and everyday convenience.”

The existing retail node running from Beira Alta and Zara’s Café to the Kiddies’ Wimpy site, will be redeveloped into a family fine-dining node, offering a choice of niche restaurants in a cosmopolitan, street scene environment. As Rencken put it: “Picture a street scene with stunning architecture, attractive landscaping and hardscaping, outdoor seating, beautiful lighting, all topped with great food and superb service. It will be a celebration of life the Ballito way – the place where people meet, the place where families connect.”

A permanent artisanal food market, a first for the South African market, will take shape in the area currently occupied by Mr Price clothing, Totalsports and Identity. Taking up 1600 m2 of retail space, the focus will be on quality artisanal food, everyday freshness and authenticity. Anchor tenants in this space will be an artisanal bakery, coffee roastery, craft brewery, free range butchery and organic fresh produce outlet. Shoppers can also look forward to purchasing fresh fish, chicken, deli meats and cheeses, ice cream and waffles, either to take home or to consume on site in shared seating areas. Design of this space is set to be original, authentic and artisanal, bringing a uniqueness to the Lifestyle centre offering. There has also been a big focus on “local” with Lifestyle Centre partnering with a number of local personalities to bring this concept to life. “This is an ambitious idea,” said Rencken, “but we have done extensive homework and the buy-in from our market traders, entrepreneurs and existing tenants has been phenomenal, confirming that this is what Ballito wants and that we are indeed on the right track!”

Timelines are tight, and building works significant, with the new stairwell and lifts from the underground parking due for completion by mid April, the launch of Dischem, Sportmans Warehouse, Baby City and ToyZone being 1 September, and the completion of the restaurant node and artisanal food market due by 1 October. “The impact on Ballito Lifestyle Centre will be significant over the next 6 – 7 months,” said Rencken, “but our customers’ shopping experience is paramount and we will make every effort to preserve this.”

Ballito Lifestyle Centre looks set to build on their high-ground of being the centre of Ballito since 2003. “We are confident that when we stand back in 12 months time and look at what we have created, Ballito Lifestyle Centre will be an authentic and convenient shopping experience, focused on food, family and well-being. We will have a product which is much more focused on our target market and of which we are proud… and above all, which will trade at levels higher than we are currently achieving!” Rencken concluded.