A 21st century shopping experience for Nigeria designed by SA architects

Posted On Monday, 26 June 2006 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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Retail growth in an emerging market


The Lagos Palms, the first world-class shopping centre in Nigeria, opened in February this year amidst great excitement and anticipation.  Johannesburg based Bentel Associates International (BAI), internationally recognised retail design experts, were retained by the developers to design and project manage this unique and pioneering regional property venture.

Over the past decade, first world retail development, driven by money and modern communication, has grown rapidly in the emerging markets.  In many major African cities, there has been a wave of construction and malls are now becoming part of the shopping landscape, alongside traditional markets.  There is an increasing trend towards more formalised shopping centres with anchor tenants and many national retailers.

The resultant changes to people’s lives have been significant.  In regions where shopping once meant walking to an open air market or a neighbourhood shop, consumers are now able to browse the aisles at a supermarket or select brand-name goods at a mall.  Shoppers have become consumers and an emerging middle class with disposable income has created a substantial demand and a new set of expectations for consumer goods.

A growth in the retail industry in these countries has been a catalyst for local economic growth with positive benefits for developers, tenants and consumers.  Other positive consequences include job creation, the reduction of protectionism and infrastructural improvements.  The Lagos Palms for example, created employment for 500 Nigerians and another 5 000 jobs indirectly.

Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria and the second largest city in Africa, has a population of approximately 15.5 million people.  The Lagos Palms is the first mall of its kind in Nigeria and is comparable to other large shopping centres anywhere in the world.  It offers the exciting concept of ‘one-stop shopping’ and the convenience and unique experience of retail, leisure and entertainment facilities under one roof.

This impressive retail facility is expected to radically alter local consumer shopping styles.  “There is huge demand for world-class retail facilities in Nigeria,” says Franc Brugman BAI project director and architect for the development.  “Previously very little in the way of retail space here could have been described as world-class.”

The US$40 million (R300 million) shopping and entertainment centre is located on a 44 000 m2 site.  The total built area is 23 600 m2, with a gross leasable area of 20 000 m2 providing a wide range of retail and service outlets, a food court and five cinemas.  In addition to the 800-space car park, a small car park caters for the tenants.  Described by the developers as ‘lifestyle shopping at its best’ the mall provides Nigerians with their first 21st century shopping experience.

The developer of The Palms Shopping centre is Persianis Properties Limited (PPL), a joint venture between Actis and Snap Blu.  Actis (previously known as CDC Capital Partners) is a UK based private equity investor with an extensive portfolio in emerging markets.  Snap Blu is owned by Nigerian developer Tayo Amusan.  “Amusan is an experienced property developer who saw the potential for a world-class retail facility in the heart of Lagos.  Actis shared this optimism and through a joint venture with Amusan provided most of the capital and experience required for the development and construction of the centre.  It was an ambitious vision and a courageous decision on the part of both parties to develop the first shopping complex of its kind in a country where retail facilities are relatively unsophisticated,” says Brugman.

The Palms is conveniently and ideally located just a few kilometres away from the Victoria Island business district and the rapidly developing affluent residential area of the Lekki Peninsular in Lagos.  The site is directly linked to the Lekki Expressway providing convenient access to Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki and is surrounded by commercial and residential development.  The Mall has two main entrances - to decongest the heavy traffic flow emanating from the Lekki Expressway end and an alternative entrance through Ligali Ayorinde Street. 

The mall is another first in Nigeria in that most of the space was let prior to opening.  Midway through the construction work, much of the space had been taken already by banks, anchor tenants and other business concerns that wanted to have a space in the complex.  “We have designed the lettable space to incorporate an excellent tenant mix,” says Brugman.  “The Palms is a type of development that has never previously been undertaken in Nigeria because of a lack of industry expertise and the absence of significant retailers willing to trade in Nigeria.  It was very clear that the success of this project would be determined by whether it could attract high quality anchor tenants.  These quality tenants were identified and formed the basis of the final development.”

The Palms accommodates 62 shops ranging in size between 28 - 590m2, a food court and a five-screen NuMetro cinema complex.  The mall features some of South Africa's premier retailers – including three major anchor tenants who together utilise more than 50% of the space: supermarket giant Shoprite, Game, a discount retail chain selling household goods and Nu Metro, providing five cinema screens and a media store to provide the necessary entertainment requirements of the centre.  A multitude of major international brands are represented including names like Clarins, Wrangler and Konica.  Broll Nigeria has secured a five-year tender to provide property management services.

“The quality of delivery in retail developments still remains the main risk to investors and retailers in Africa.  Actis’ experience of retail development on the continent has enabled them to build a network of strong relationships with retailers across the region.  As a result they were able to attract some of Africa’s leading retail names to the Palms,” adds Brugman.

A massive effort was involved in this retail venture; the architects were especially challenged in that they had to constantly take cognisance of local customs, preferences and business norms.  “Retail knowledge is limited as many Nigerians have never experienced a first-class, world-standard, retail complex,” comments Brugman, who has an impressive retail design portfolio that includes the Accra Mall under construction in Ghana and the prestigious Michelangelo Towers in Johannesburg.  “The design of the Lagos Palms has not been without some really interesting but often frustrating challenges.  For example, during the design process some of the local retailers had to be convinced of the value of best-practice store design and layout.  They essentially wanted a door into their store that opens and closes.  Along with the developers and Broll, we had to go back to basics and educate them about the benefits of having wide-open entrances so that shoppers passing by can see all the way into the store.  The whole design had to be looked at from the point of view that this type of development and retail environment is unprecedented in Nigeria.”

An impressive design has incorporated all the components of the development into a modern contemporary design.  “The developers brief was to ensure that the centre, once complete, compared favourably with any centre of its size and finish in the world.” says Brugman.  The challenge was to ensure that whilst finishes matched current global trends, the practicalities of the design and specifications were possible in a country where traditional shopping centre complexes were unknown to the construction industry and the market.  Brugman confirmed that the design of the centre was therefore limited to the abilities of the local construction industry and its technologies as well as the abilities of local and international sub-contractors to perform in such an environment.

The design, whilst modern, was kept simple and clean to accommodate the above constraints.  Mill finish aluminium sheeting was applied to the roof and on it was also utilised on the elevations which form the slick backdrop to the modern skylights, the imposing entrances and the 800 vehicular car park, a first in Lagos which traditionally does not provide parking in any retail development of any sort.  The interiors of the centre are world-class.  The client and architects ensured that the finishes, from the flush plastered ceilings, the porcelain tiled floors and the aluminium shop fronts, matched standard finishes to be found in any comparable centre.

“We have designed the mall to incorporate top quality finishes as this is a world-class shopping facility.  Tenants were given a wide selection of options such as the finishes on the power-floated concrete on screed floor and a choice of having their own private toilet facility.”  Shop front finishes are natural anodised aluminium or mild steel roller shutters, which come with a set of double-levered doors and clear safety laminated class.  Lighting throughout the centre is high tech, affording shoppers a substantial level of lighting comfort and aesthetics.  The malls are illuminated with metal halide lights.  The external façade is up lit affording the centre a high degree of visibility at night.

Further constraints included the fact that power outages in Lagos are numerous, water supply is questionable and there is no sewer system to connect into.  Brugman says, “We are very proud of the fact that this shopping centre is truly a self-sufficient centre in every aspect, a fact I am sure most shopping centres in the world could not match.  We have our own water purification plant, a sewer treatment plant and back-up power that ensures that no matter the status of power in the rest of Lagos, one can continue shopping in an air-conditioned environment at The Palms uninterrupted!”

An efficient central air-conditioning system has been included in the design and the energy supply is backed up with a 2900KVA generating plant.  Fire safety is a priority; efficient fire escapes and state of the art fire detection systems have been installed as well as a reserve water tank.  Other state-of-the-art facilities include sophisticated security systems and surveillance, advanced telecommunications and satellite infrastructure, unwired telephone points, and signage electrical points.

Brugman says that here are good property related opportunities for South African professionals in Africa, particularly in those countries that are showing substantial growth.  “Many countries believe that South African companies have a better understanding of doing work in Africa than their European or American counterparts.  Although there are a number of significant and often seemingly insurmountable challenges facing those who wish to set up business in the country, the untapped and emerging market is enticing to potential investors.”

According to the South Africa Foundation, an association of top South African businesses, South African companies have focused on markets that are opening up in the global economy.  Research published by the Foundation notes that service sectors are becoming a bigger part of the South African presence.  Besides the financial, IT, retail and mining services sectors, new service sectors such as those in the oil industry, advertising, franchising and architectural design are gaining a foothold.

The importance of the Palms is evidenced by the fact that it was commissioned by two Nigerian heads of state - the current president, General Obasanjo and General Babangida a former president, as well as the King of Lagos.  BAI, with a tradition of pioneering projects, are justifiably proud of their design achievements at this world-class retail and entertainment facility.

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 09:51

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