An Eye on Retail
Vision stays busy in South Africa’s booming commercial market.
South Africa’s retail property market segment has continued to outperform others, creating huge business opportunities for vertical-transportation (VT) companies, some of which are riding the ongoing mall construction boom to retain or expand their share of the market.
The South African Property Owners Association says the retail sector outperformed all other property segments in 2014-2015, a trend analysts attribute to the expanding middle class and their increasing earnings.
“What we see is that, within the regional and super-regional retail malls, the demand is still high,” said Craig Hean, CEO for Sub-Saharan Africa at JLL, a commercial real-estate advisory firm, during a previous interview on South Africa’s property market trends.
Apart from notable retail property developments in South Africa such as Waterfall City’s Mall of Africa and Diamond Walk in Sandton, demand for retail space continues to drive growth in investments in the retail property market. Cape Town-based Vision Elevators (Pty) Ltd. is following this path in its efforts to increase its share of the South African VT market.
“We have been involved in a few of the bigger malls to open recently in South Africa, including Springs Mall, Cornubia Mall and Ballito Mall,” said Nicholas Wareing, CEO of Vision. Vision, which has operations across South Africa, is involved in the manufacture, installation, maintenance and modernization of various VT products, including elevators, escalators, platform lifts, goods hoists, dumbwaiters and accessibility equipment.
Vision supplied passenger lifts, goods lifts and escalators to Springs Mall, a development in Blue Crane Eco Park in Gauteng that sits on 52,000 m2. The shopping mall has already attracted top-quality retailers, including Woolworths, Checkers, Pick ’n Pay and Edgars, in addition to outlets offering a wide range of fashion, footwear, sportswear, banking, health and beauty, and leisure products and services.
Elsewhere, Vision has been involved in the installation of VT solutions at the Cornubia Shopping Mall in Kwa Zulu Natal, an 85,000-m² regional shopping center where various retailers are offering a mix of food, fashion, lifestyle and sports options.
Apart from Woolworths, Cornubia Shopping Mall has attracted other key retailers, including Dis-Chem, Pepkor Group, Edcon Group, Virgin Active, Pick ’n Pay, Clicks, Bakos Brothers, Outdoor Warehouse, Nu Metro, Checkers, Cotton On, Truworths, The Spur Group and Burger King, among others.
Vision has also been involved in the VT of the Ballito Junction Regional Mall, which was named the best new shopping center development in South Africa this year after winning the South African Council of Shopping Centres’ Retail Design and Development Award for 2017. The 80,000-m2 shopping mall on the Dolphin Coast of KwaZulu-Natal has attracted a number of quality retailers, including stores that specialize in fashion, footwear, wellness, health and beauty, home décor, cellular services, banking and more.
Vision has not only supplied VT solutions to several South African shopping malls since 2006, but has also supplied such products and services to a cross-section of buildings in the country that recently represented a 55.2% investment growth
“Our business has grown to be [a] respected industry name and now stretches nationwide, with branch offices in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, and representative agents in East London, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein,” said Wareing. He added that the company’s manufacturing facility in Durban is ISO 9001 accredited.
“All our products are designed and manufactured in accordance with South African Bureau of Standards [guidelines] and European Norms, and give testament to Vision Elevators’ commitment to value without compromising on quality,” said Wareing, a graduate of the University of Stellenbosch who has been involved in manufacturing of goods hoists from a very early age, following in the footsteps of his father.
He said Vision has been growing steadily in a market where competition has attracted major OEMs Otis, Schindler, Mitsubishi Electric (Melco) and KONE. Despite the competitive environment in the South African market, Wareing said Vision, the portfolio of which includes both domestic and property clients, has managed to cut out a position for itself in the crowded market because of its quality of products and services: “I think it ultimately comes down to the services offered. One of our key business objectives is to go the extra mile to make sure the customer feels like they matter and are not just another client.”
Vision’s customers vary widely, just as does the company’s wide range of products, said Wareing. He said Vision’s base of clients is not largely driven through massive public marketing, but much more “on referrals from existing customers and repeat business.”
More importantly for Vision is its growth in the manufacture and supply of products that are energy efficient and help customers reduce their overall maintenance costs. “Energy-efficient drives and destination controls are some of the items that are starting to take shape in South Africa from a technological perspective,” said Wareing.
Vision indicates in one of its previous statements that its passenger elevators are able to save up to 35% on energy costs because they run on variable-voltage, variable-frequency (VVVF) and permanent-magnet gearless machines. The company’s microprocessor control system allows for an energy-saving mode after a set period of inactivity.
Vision is a member of South Africa’s Green Building Council, an affiliate of the World Green Building Council. The nonprofit, non-government organization has placed priority on green alternatives, such as regenerative motor drives for elevators.
“The drive is able to harvest the energy lost on traditional systems through heat dissipation on the braking resistors and feed the energy back into the energy grid and lower the overall consumption of the elevator within the building,” the company says on its website. Other green options include the gearless motor, which, unlike geared motors, has the capacity to “move loads with lower kilowatt usage,” hence lowering the energy consumed by the elevator.
Vision is soon expected to install energy-conserving elevator products in the US$28 million Illovo Point project, an office and retail development in Johannesburg. Wareing said Vision is installing four 1000-kg, 2.5-mps passenger lifts with glass cars and landing doors at the 20-story building that sits on 15,750-m2 space.
Wareing said Vision looks to the future with confidence. The company is already working on its agenda to spread across the sub-Saharan VT market. “We would do this by partnering with good local partners that shared that same passion for customer service as we do,” said Wareing.
In addition, Vision looks forward to the adoption of the latest EN 81-21/-50 regulations in South Africa. “We envisage this process will be completed in the next 18 months, and my strong feeling is that the move to more homogenized standards worldwide is the way to go,” said Wareing.