(East London) – It’s family first for the new GM of East London’s largest mall, both in her personal life and when it comes to her customer-focused campaigns.
After heading up two of Gauteng’s most prestigious retail destinations, Reinette van Tonder will be bringing her expertise to the Eastern Cape as the new general manager of Hemingways Mall.
Van Tonder, who most recently held the position of retail executive at Melrose Arch, will officially take up her new post at the beginning of August and already has big plans in store for East London’s largest shopping centre.
“Hemingways Mall is well-positioned off the N2 and therefore attracts attention from residents throughout the Border region,” said Van Tonder, adding that she intended to implement a strong customer-centric approach at the mall.
She said her vision for the mall was one of service excellence in a secure, friendly and family-oriented shopping environment.
“The first plan of action is to reaffirm the basic shopping centre operational procedures by way of a staff culture that is kind and helpful, with shop assistants who go the extra mile,” Van Tonder said.
“I’m very fortunate to be part of the team that drives to connect the people of this beautiful region with a very exciting retail and entertainment offering.”
Van Tonder, who has more than 18 years’ experience in the industry, said she intended to lead by example and go the extra mile in rolling out her customer-focused strategy to customers and businesses in the region.
Her career path has seen her involved in the successful realignment of the tenant mix and offering at a number of centres, which has resulted in rapid growth in foot traffic for those developments.
“It is truly gratifying to help grow a shopping centre together with its tenants, who form an integral part of a shopping environment’s differentiated identity,” she said.
As retail GM of Melrose Arch, Van Tonder was responsible for steering the European-style live-work-play-shop development through rough economic waters and in the face of tough competitors in the same catchment area.
She achieved similar success at the helm of Hyde Park Corner in the affluent northern suburbs of Johannesburg. With an emphasis on luxury brands, this high-end retail development shifted its focus to “new money”, which, Van Tonder said, brought a radical change to the tenant mix, marketing and overall perception of the centre.
“Another of our major challenges was building a hotel, the bulk of which was constructed on top of our existing infrastructure, while continuing to trade optimally during the two-year build phase.”
Van Tonder, who started out her career in property administration, said her interest in retail property management had first ignited while managing a portfolio of office buildings and office parks for Hyprop Investment Holdings.
“At the time, our offices were based in one of the most gorgeous, niche shopping malls in the country. This inspired and drove me to pursue a career in shopping centre management.
“The excitement of being part of a living, breathing, ever-changing environment became my passion.”
Born in Barkly West in the Northern Cape and raised in Johannesburg, Van Tonder said she and her husband had fallen in love with the Eastern Cape and were looking forward to relocating.
“We’ve been visiting my brother and family, who live in East London, regularly for eight years and we’ve always known that if we got the opportunity to relocate to this beautiful part of the country, we’d grab it with ‘all four’ hands!
“Notwithstanding the big change, my husband and I look forward to the new chapter in our lives, where our children, who are all involved in their own careers, may visit from time to time.”