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Malls all geared up for festive shoppers, but will footfalls match expectations?

As in the case of almost the entire industry, malls, shopping complexes and the retail sector was severely impacted by the pandemic and the lockdowns imposed nationwide. According to media reports, malls have seen their revenues drop by as much as 50% in FY2021.

Shopping centers and malls across India saw losses amounting to almost Rs 30,000 crore ($451 million) in April and May 2021 alone, when the second wave of COVID-19 was at its peak, as per media reports. Since retail establishments in several states have remained closed due to localised lockdowns, the overall loss has grown significantly over the last year. As per the Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI), a non-profit institution aimed at the development of shopping malls across India, malls in Maharashtra have ended up losing around Rs 15,000 crore so far. It may be noted here that there are over 75 malls in Maharashtra. 

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Will revenge shopping shore up footfalls?

However, with COVID-19 restrictions now being lifted and extension in the time for shops and market places to remain open, malls and shopping complexes are gearing up to welcome visitors.

The festive season and positive consumer sentiments have raised the expectations of a revival in the business for malls. According to a study by Axis My India, 42% of the respondent families said that they will shop more or same as compared to last year. In terms of mobility, 93% families saying they are going out the same or less on short vacations/ malls/ restaurants, with the overall mobility score being at -8, which is an improvement over last month, which was at -24.

There are reports of rush of shoppers in West Bengal, especially Kolkata, and also in markets in Guwahati, in the run-up to Durga Puja. Malls are seeing brisk business and expect footfalls to reach pre-COVID-19 levels, if not more.

With India crossing the 75-crore mark in COVID-19 vaccinations, people now are more confident about stepping out of their homes. There is also the revenge shopping factor, where there is a lot of pent-up demand after being confined to one’s homes for several months at a stretch. A couple of months’ back we had seen people in North India thronging the hill stations in droves, in what was termed as ‘revenge tourism, when inter-state borders were opened up for travel. As more and more offices open up for regular business, people will regain the confidence to step out of their homes. 

Adhering to COVID-19 protocols

Having learnt a very harsh lesson from the COVID-19 second wave and how laxity in maintaining the safety protocols played a major role in the growing number of cases, the industry is taking no chances and is strictly adhering to all Government-mandated safety and hygiene precautions. Malls are being especially cautious about these.

Speaking about the safety precautions that Korum Mall is taking, Deva Jyotula, Head, Korum Mall, said, “Korum Mall is all set to open its doors to customers with thorough COVID-19 precautions and safety measures in place. These include temperature checks by the security at the entrance, signages on COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and protocols across the mall, and hand sanitisation facilities at various points in the mall. The premises will be cleaned and sanitised at close intervals. Moreover, the seating in the food court has been spaced out as per norms.”

Gitanjali Singh, Marketing Vice President at Select CITYWALK shares, "With the opening of the malls, post the second phase of lockdown, Select CITYWALK's focus was first and foremost to ensure the safety of shoppers from the perspective of the guidelines issued by the MHA. We are still following the covid norms strictly and not taking anything lightly. In fact, as part of our endeavours in this regard, we undertook an initiative to enable vaccination of retail and mall staff. This proactive approach was our contribution to vaccination enablement and overall safety.

Mukesh Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, Infiniti Mall, added here, “With government nod, we have started operations at Infiniti Mall (Malad and Andheri) from Sunday, August 15, 2021 from 11 am to 10 pm on all days. We have taken various measures to ensure that all safety protocols are followed and urge our patrons to follow the same. Since we have been hit by a major second wave of the virus, it is our duty to ensure that we don’t take this lightly and abide by the instructed guidelines. We are glad and overwhelmed to resume operations after being closed for over 4 months. We will be strictly following the new COVID-19 protocols, wherein people who have been fully vaccinated will be allowed inside the mall premises. We are excited to welcome patrons back at the mall and have a few plans such as launching special sales and other activities underway to attract consumers.”

Speaking about the lessons learnt during the pandemic period, Rima Kirtikar, CMO, Viviana Mall, said that Viviana Mall was able to run between the lifting and imposition of lockdown for 28 days and added that they had learned a lot after the first lockdown. Kirtikar further said, “The retailers have lost a lot. To fill the gaps between being closed for so many days to now opening, we need to tell our customers how safe we are. Following the Government’s norms for entry of only double vaccinated customers, Viviana has been geotargeting and customer profiling to make the news of the Entry norms reach to its customer base, so that only full vaccinated customers come and no one should go back disappointed from the mall for not being provided entry. There are a lot of promotions going on social media. As the retailers have lost confidence, we are helping them revive by promoting their brands by giving them ad spaces for their promotions. Lots of offers like End of Season sale are being carried out to attract more footfalls.”

(Edited and Additional Inputs by Shanta Saikia.)

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