Kisumu shopping malls spree could prove very expensive

A view of section of Kisumu. PHOTO/KISUMU NEWS
A view of section of Kisumu. PHOTO/KISUMU NEWS
Kisumu has been on a shopping mall building spree, with the lakeside city seeing seven new malls opening doors in the past one year alone.

But months after their grand opening, several malls have turned into a retail nightmare as traders vacate the facilities in droves citing poor access and high rents that are undermining their profitability.

According to a report published by the Business Daily last week, at least one supermarket and several traders have recently moved out of the newly built Tuff Mall – barely six months after moving in.

People familiar with the lakeside city reckon that shopping malls have been experiencing low traffic especially during weekdays mainly because residents of the city are yet to embrace the emerging mall-going culture.

It is also believed that there is low circulation of money in Kisumu unlike in other major towns, a situation that undermines business growth.

“This explains the difficulty that businesses face even as they try to raise capital from their profits to meet the high rents,” Lake Estate Agency owner Nishma Karia told the Business Daily.

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For developers, the new shopping malls could prove very costly. This is due to the fact that – besides repelling potential tenants and shoppers – half empty malls are bloodsuckers for the owners, easily recording millions of shillings a month in lost business opportunities.

This could, however, be a boon to potential tenants who will now stand better chances of negotiating cheaper rents for the vacant spaces.

Tuff Foam, which sits between Mega Plaza and West End Mall, charges about Sh60 per square feet for spaces on the upper floors of its back end; while Mega Plaza – the oldest mall in Kisumu – charges about Sh80 per square feet, according to some of its tenants.

West End charges between Sh180 to Sh250 per square feet exclusive of value added tax (VAT) and service fees – more than double the average rent of Sh180 to Sh250 for buildings in the city centre.