Despite experiencing an African summer Christmas, shoppers in South Africa still seem to prefer decorations in the country’s shopping malls to hark back to a cold and snowy European-style winter wonderland.
An article published last week by the international news website, ‘Quartz Africa’, ponders the seasonal disparity between Northern and Southern Hemisphere Christmases and the vexing question for SA mall managers as to what constitutes appropriate festive season decorations – given that most customers would never have experienced snow, never mind sleigh bells and reindeer.
“Even as the country’s consumer base has become more diverse and sophisticated, Western visions of Christmas still appear to be a huge draw to the country’s multitude of malls,” observes the publication. “For mall managers, this wholehearted embrace of ‘atmospherics’, or the Western-perfected practice of using decor, sound and smells to put people in the mood to shop, has taken on an even greater importance during an economic downturn that is seeing consumers adopt more measured, rather than merry, shopping habits.”
Jan Griesel, co-owner of a specialist decorating business The Magic Christmas Co, says there has been a growing effort in the last 15 years to recognise local traditions. These range from using Ndebele tribal prints to replace ribbon, a giant baobab tree instead of a fir tree, and handmade wire reindeer, sheep, and cows. “What we’re trying to do is incorporate more local people to produce more local things, so we can put it together in one statement,” he tells ‘Quartz Africa’.
But while some malls have tried to find a balance between African and Western traditions, it seems the white Christmas approach is here to say, the publication reports.
Even though malls might be catering for more diverse communities, religions and races, “… there is an expectation for beautiful, traditional stuff,” Vanessa Fourie, Brand Manager at the new Mall of Africa, says.