Let’s all Build Shopping Centres!

I imagine one morning in January 2010 when ten different property developers returned to work from their vacations, and asked themselves what they should do for the new year.   They all had the same idea – to build shopping centers in Mauritius.

It went really well at first.  They all found land owners eager to contribute their land to the projects.   The sugar farmers were only too happy to convert low value cane land into high value commercial real estate.  The developers counted and analysed the number of people who went to the shops in their target area, collected a bunch of investors looking for something new, found a builder and an architect …and off they went, proposals in hand to the local municipalities and regional offices, acquiring permission to build.

Here is my incomplete list of shopping centers recently completed or under construction that include expats as their target market:

Cascavelle (near Flic en Flac)

Bagatelle (near Ebene)

Center Point (near Trianon but stalled at present)

Trianon Shopping Park (near Trianon, unsurprisingly)

Super U (near Grand Bay, extended and renovated)

La Croisette (near Grand Bay)

Circle Square (near Grand Bay)

Mon Choisy (near Grand Bay and right next to La Croisette)

Winners (near Grand Bay competing with Store 2000)

In addition to these, a number of other expat orientated centers are holding on or in decline:

Reseau Creole (Black River)

River View (near Black River)

Les Halles (Phoenix)

Trianon (Game has departed while Shoprite and Espace Maison are keeping this one going)

Store 2000 (near Grand Bay)

Jumbo (Near Phoenix)

Jumbo (Near Riche Terre)

This is not an exhaustive list, but shows how much competition there is.  There are other centers and supermarkets all over the island.   Winners is everywhere.

La Croisette, near Grand Bay. Lots of offices, shops and apartments.

Many Mauritians do not own cars, and trolley loads of stuff

does not fit well on the family moped…

Fair enough, I have seen incredible things carried on mopeds but this is not the norm.

There are many Mauritian families who run out of money before the end of the month.

For them, it is a godsend to pop over to the local Tabagie to get a small quantity of essentials on credit before payday.  A lot of hotel guests fill up on beer and water from these stores, rather than pay the high prices in their rooms.

A typical Mauritian Tabagie. This one in the South near Belle Ombre

What I think (and I could be wrong) is that the developers did the demographic analysis without considering the growth in total shopping center capacity.  It is going to take a whole lot of new expats in Mauritius to fill these shops.

While all this construction has given many people jobs, and the foreign investment flowing into Mauritius is good for the economy, I wonder what the future holds?  For all the shop owners renting space, and the investors’ who have balance sheets that reflect a degree of unjustified optimism.

I fear that one day commercial property values will be tested.

The New Yorker cartoon that inspired this post.



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