The mall in Eastleigh set to topple Two Rivers as Kenya’s biggest

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Friday February 17 2023


An artist’s impression of Business Bay Square development in Eastleigh, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | POOL

There are two kinds of shoppers who frequent Eastleigh, Nairobi. One is the kind that cares about affordability and quality, and another that cares less if they are buying knockoffs.

The first group somewhat loathes the chaos of Eastleigh, but it goes there anyway, having realised that few to no shopping malls rival its pricing and some highly-priced wares sold in the city centre are sold at a fraction of the cost in the populous shopping district.

The second group is perennial customers. These are mostly traders who buy in volumes, at wholesale prices to resell.

These buyers come from afar, including Tanzania to buy anything from sugar and cooking oil to curtains and carpets.

Over the years, Eastleigh has become a throbbing, uncontrolled trading hub.

In a day, millions of shillings exchange hands in the many crowded stalls, the streets are jammed with people wandering through the chaos of boda bodas, cars and more merchandise.

You would imagine that investors would yearn for order, but it is the chaos that brings super profits and affords them heavy footfall, enviable by many of Nairobi’s struggling shopping malls.

Here cash rules for mobile money withdrawals. If you must pay using mobile money, then you will likely be asked to withdraw the cash from the nearby agent.

At the tentacles of this tumultuous market, stands one of East Africa’s biggest malls, Business Bay Square. It is set to open in early May 2023.

The Business Bay Square Mall (BBS) in Eastleigh boasts 130,000 square metres making it one of the largest malls in East Africa.

Two Rivers was the biggest mall in floor size occupying 65,000 square metres having overthrown Garden City Mall (50,000 square metres) on Thika Road from the prestigious position of the region’s largest mall.

BBS mall looks unsurprisingly okay amidst this chaos. The walking lanes near it are so thin, and so are the roads.

Calling an Uber takes you about 45 minutes even if the driver is just three streets away. The prices of commodities and quality changes between streets, all lined with ‘labels’.

There is Adidas, Yves Laurent, and Luis Vuitton, but all are fakes. There are oils and perfumes, including sellers who mix the oils on-site based on one’s complexion.

But Business Bay Square Mall, which has given Eastleigh a grand and clean feel, promises to house some shops that sell genuine brands.

The mall will also host international brands such as Giordano – a Hong Kong international retailer of apparel and accessories, Linton’s Beauty World with skincare, makeup, and fragrance brands including Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, Clinique, Estée Lauder, Turkish brand LC Waikiki among others.

Also read: Buyers snap up Centum’s Two Rivers apartments

American multinational Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizzahut, South African fast food chain Galito’s, and Artcaffe, will be some of the fast food stores to be hosted at the mall.

The mall will also have a food court on the rooftop.

It features a plethora of food and beverage outlets, fashion stores, health and beauty shops, and banking services.

The project size covers 6.4 acres with the property comprising serviced plots for commercial, residential and mixed-use as well as recreational and utility plots, landscaped areas and infrastructure routes.

“Ten Commodities Wholesale, registered in 2018, is a business group headquartered in Nairobi, to consolidate extensive experience and resources required to build a massive architectural icon, Business Bay Square, currently under development in Nairobi,” the developer’s website read.

The BBS project was undertaken in two phases. The first phase is 90 percent complete with the second phase of the project, comprising the Hotel and Serviced Apartment Towers will begin once the first phase is wrapped up.

“Maestro Limited is on-site as the project architect and the structural engineer is Stroutel Africa. MaceYMR is the appointed project manager,” said the BBS Mall marketing team.

What draws investors to Eastleigh is the high footfall of visitors flocking to shop in its malls.

“The increase in malls in Eastleigh can likely be attributed to the growing population in the area, as well as the area’s convenient location for accessing larger markets in Nairobi,” says Marshal Mutei, the sales manager at Lordship Africa, a real estate development and investment company.

Mr Mutei reckons the area’s affordability also makes it prime for investors and a better option for business owners.

“Shopping centres in Eastleigh have become a popular destination for traders and shoppers who are looking to buy goods that are not available in other parts of Nairobi. For instance, if you tell anyone in Nairobi you’re going to Eastleigh the first thing that rings in their mind is that you are shopping for something and you probably have a tight budget,” added Mr Mutei.

A spot check by the Business Daily confirmed some of the businesses setting shop include Optica, Goodlife Pharmacy, Cleanfax Laundry and Cleaners, Beyond Fruits, Healthy U, and Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed lender NCBA among others.

French multinational retailer Carrefour, which operates more than 12,000 outlets globally is the mall’s anchor tenant.

The mall will comprise over 10 banks, more than 20 restaurants, 1,400 parking slots, hospitals, and cinema halls etc.

Other banks in the mall include Absa Bank, SBM, National bank, KCB, and Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) among others.

Efforts by the Business Daily to get information on the owner fell futile, however, it was determined the management had changed and the company had a new boss who was not of Kenyan origin.

Kenya’s growing consumerism has sparked huge interest among multinationals and shopping mall investors.

This has been attributed to the emerging lifestyle trends among Kenya’s young middle class.

There has also been a growing branch network of retail stores in the country with international supermarket chains training their sights on Nairobi.

The growth of the retail sector, embodied by a surge in the construction of malls including Two rivers, garden city and other malls in the country has increased spending and new trends of digital payment emerged.

Also read: Eastleigh traders shut down shops to protest KRA levies

“Malls make it simpler for customers to discover what they need and want by offering a range of retail businesses and other services in one location, which can aid in increasing consumer spending,” says Mr Mutei.

“Consumer spending growth can boost local small businesses and other sectors of the economy.”

The use of bank cards to shop for goods and services is one of the factors that has increased consumer spending due to the attractiveness of the convenience of the payment option.

The growing popularity of swiping cards at supermarkets, fuel stations, pubs, restaurants, and other establishments signals higher transaction-based income for banks.

Supermarkets, whose daily sales can run into millions of shillings, are some of the biggest beneficiaries of the PoS systems which reduce their cash handling burden.

“The emergence of shopping malls, speaks to a target niche market that has a high propensity to consume, which mainly are to be found in the urban areas. This class of consumers really don’t feel the pinch of rising prices of items, unlike consumers at the lower end of the economic pyramid,” said Churchill Ogutu, an economist at IC Group.

Malls have also created employment, increased tourism and travel, and improved infrastructure in various parts of the country.

“Overall, by generating jobs, raising consumer spending, encouraging the development of infrastructure, and drawing tourists and visitors, malls can contribute significantly to the opening up of the economy,” said Mr Mutei.

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Beryl Onyango

Beryl Onyango is a CPA and economics degree holder who has dedicated her career to helping others navigate the complex world of finance. Beryl has spent the past 3 years working as a finance specialist in a fintech company and has 6 years of experience in finance, working with a diverse range of clients and industries. Beryl's expertise lies in budgeting, saving, investing, and retirement planning, but she also has a deep understanding of various other areas of finance. She is interested in financial technology and how it changes how we manage our finances. As a finance writer, Beryl has been sharing her insights and knowledge through her writing, covering various finance and personal finance topics. Her goal is to educate and empower individuals to take control of their finances and achieve their financial goals. In addition to her professional experience, Beryl is a lifelong learner, always seeking to expand her knowledge and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in finance. She is also a strong communicator, able to explain complex financial concepts in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. Beryl believes that financial literacy is the key to achieving financial success, and she is dedicated to helping others achieve their financial goals.

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