Analysis Of The Factors Attracting People To Visit Shopping Malls

The reasons for people visiting the Canal Walk Shopping Complex for various reasons, other than shopping, an example of leisure, to eat and socialize, interacting with other people. The average, not-so-wealthy person visits the mall simply because the entry is free and open to all, it is a safe, pleasant and comfortable environment to pass time in. It appears to be open to all, but it is not a public place, it is privately owned and deliberations as to whether it is public or privately owned space is under discussion to this day, some refer to it as regulated space. These entities are planned, structured and managed in a way that influences the lives of individuals. Shopping is a way of life around the world and the Cape Town community is not exempted. Sociologists go as far as comparing these planned retail spaces as ‘colonizing other private spaces’ because shopping is a way of life for many people. The Canal Walk’s location was meticulously planned as a strategic beacon to appeal to the targeted buyer. Distinct examples of this can be seen at the Canal Walk Shopping Complex with respects to the layout and its shop selection. The types of retailers are usually high-end establishments which are specifically situated there to attract tourists. The tourist market is very lucrative and is known to be spenders. These retailers are also the most expensive establishments. This fact is that they are actually highly restrictive, in the sense that it is public space managed in such a way that it is inaccessible. Actually, it is accessible to only people that are financially well-off, those that can pay and administered these retailers are administered by the private owner’s hegemonic outlook of social order. Simply stated, these retailers are for the rich and high-class citizen, a type of social club reserved for wealthy people. Specific techniques are employed to relay this message, for example, the utilization of architectural and other techniques of social control. When the esthetic design of the shopping complex is examined (inside and outside) it gives a message which says, "playground for millionaires". The surrounding areas include the Marriot and Colosseum Luxury Hotels, promoting the entire area as an exclusionary mandated space, it embodies a specific set of social values which states that it is the domain reserved for a few. This is clear proof as to how a supposed public space is regulated by people with money. Not only is the behaviour of people regulated, but their individuality. This type of regulatory practices does not consider the inherent capacity of people to understand and restructure spatial realities in relation to their personal social experience which caters to their personal needs.

In reality, public spaces are a battleground for social control. When it comes to shopping malls, on the one side we have the owners of the property which impose their will on what is actually properly public spaces. On the other side is the public which perceives these space as a public entity. Where the will of individual or groups are imposed on others, there must be powers or authority which wants to exercise control.

The Canal Walk Complex is one of those spaces that straddles the line between a public entity and privately owned space. From the architect’s point of view, they are divided in their opinion as to the real advantages of shopping malls, yet they have one main objective when designing shopping malls. Although people visit malls for diverse reasons, the objective is to give visitors such an experience so that they spend maximum time shopping or window-shopping. Simply stated, the design must encourage spending at maximum.The Canal Walk Complex was designed with the intention to move away from the customs of old-fashioned mall architecture. Its focus is on esthetic visibility, all of which has the attainment of retail success in mind. One of the other main focusses is on tourism. Cape Town is known for the flow of tourists. In other words, the design was shaped according to the erratic flows of capital. Another factor which is not automatically visible, but quite apparent is the design of spatial control. The objective of Canal Walk Complex is to portrait that control in its design. Management of the shopping complex requires a suitable standard of behaviour. To encourage a behaviour that is consistent with the views of management, the design of the market place is such that it portrays an air of sophistication, it deters those that are not sophisticated, simply because they would feel out of place.

Canal Walk with its magical atmosphere is encouraging to and even a driving force of classic consumer behaviour. It is not uncommon to overhear people that they overs pended. From observations made, it is clear to me that people are not only shopping or “window-shopping” but sets out to spend a couple of hours in the market place, which include eating and buying luxury items as a means to “spoil” themselves. In my opinion, people do become victims of the Canal Walk Complex.However, modern trends must be considered, people are slowly starting to shop online and are better informed about products and prices and choose to buy only the products and services required. A fact remains that behaviour will be affected by the architectural space of modern shopping malls.

It is no secret that shopping complexes are deliberately planned and designed for aesthetics, it must have an optimal visual exposure to the well-known brand names of the retailers (Woolworths, Edgars, Game, etc.), the retail ware is displayed in such a way to strengthen that visual appeal that attracts customers. The retail ware consists of the trendiest items and fashions, or state-of-the-art electronic devices, the prices are displayed the best deal, this is especially done to influence the minds of buyers. Signs that display “on sale”, “discount” attracts the attention of customers to buy.If we really look closely at the design of the Canal Walk Mall, one could say it is a fortification and to the extreme, it is prison-like. It appears open to all, but it has a lack of entrance. It is an intimidating design, it is designed like a prison with shops lining the interior like prison cells, it is designed only for “consumption and movement”. The idea is to convey a message that suggests that only shoppers with money are welcome. The type of pluralism advocated by those in power (the owners of malls) is everybody is welcome as long as he or she has money to spend, in other words, the social structure of shopping complexes is thus, those that own and those that have money to spend. It is not only advocated but practiced and that is the power that the owners of shopping malls have. Another factor to take into consideration is that these malls have security features (especially those security officers patrolling) which conveys the message that this is a space which is heavily "guarded" and the only behaviour that encourages spending money is allowed. Although the Canal has comfortable seating in the food hall, there are not really places to rest, the resting places are designed in such a way to be not too comfortable to encourage people to walk and continue shopping. The architectural design of Canal Mall’s spatial homogeneity has become “exchange value", like a cell phone, you can look at it as a practical product or the exchange value, the exchange value is its status. Simply stated malls do portray a false value. Most products on display carry status the attraction is such that it makes viewers powerless, the behaviour of the viewer is influenced, it is under dictatorship because of the exchange value, it becomes a must-have commodity. The interior is interconnected with money and spending. The viewer’s gaze is colonized by consumer products instead of true heterogeneity that matches the needs of people.


Mall visitors are mesmerized by the aesthetics of the interior; it influences the individual to experience a false euphoria of wellbeing which translates into a "nice" shopping experience. A person starts to believe he/she is able to afford the luxurious items which are displayed to entice the buyer.

People are drawn into the world of the privatized public spaces such as the Canal Walk Shopping Complex, they have a sense of expression of freedom.

03 December 2019
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