The teddy bears were doing a choreographed waltz outside their larger-than-life house, and Santa Claus had already arrived. As Patricia Prabhu and her children fought for space to pose for photographs at Express Avenue mall, the Christmas spirit, with all its charms and accompanying chaos, was in the air.
While close to 32 of her family members from different parts of the world will arrive in the city at her parent’s home “mommy and daddy’s place” to celebrate Christmas, for her children, the bear house at the mall is welcome distraction as she shops.
With Christmas knocking on the city’s doors, malls and shops in the city are going all out to add a hefty dose of crimson, snow, and festive spirit both to increase the number of walk-ins, and make the vacant spaces more interactive. The attempt is to turn the atriums into a spectacle and make shoppers gravitate towards, literally, the centre of attraction.
Though a fairly recent trend, seasonal decorations such as overwhelming Christmas trees, snow houses, and Santa Clauses in the malls, are a culmination of months of planning and budgeting, say those who are involved in the decorations.
As B. Deepika, waits for her friend in one of the city’s oldest malls, Spencer Plaza, gazing at the lanterns and the snowman in front of her, she recalls her days as student, when she could not always go back home to Ooty during festivals. So gestures such as these add value, she says.
“One year, I could not go home for Diwali, and when you walk into a mall, for instance, and see the whole place decorated, you miss celebrating the festival a little less,” she says.
M. Balasubramaniam, director, Mangal Tirth Estate, observes that Christmas decorations are part of the tradition at Spencer Plaza. “Christmas celebrations were a huge part of Spencer since it catered to the British initially. And we want to keep that tradition alive,” he says.
While Chennai Citi Centre has a 30-foot Christmas tree, and snow flakes, a giant Santa about to land with a help of a parachute will greet you at Ampa Skywalk Mall among other smaller decorations that find space across the floors.
Tamana Srinivasan, head, business development, Green Apple Media, which plans and executes seasonal decorations in some malls across the country, says that each mall has its own specifications and the décor is usually up by mid-December.
“There is also a healthy competition among the malls, who all want to take it a step ahead. We start working at least three months earlier, and the scale of the decoration is based on the size of the atrium and what they did the previous year,” she says adding that today almost every mall does something, though in varying scales.
While the small shopping complexes spend in thousands, the décor for the larger malls sometimes runs into a few lakhs.
A source at Chennai Citi Centre says that the planning is done for the entire year, including off-season time, and affirms that these efforts bring in close to a 30 per cent increase in walk-ins.
“Usually, as the festival nears, we keep adding new elements. We also try to bring in people who will interact with visitors such as traditional artistes during Pongal and Santa Claus for Christmas,” he said adding that though their festive decorations aim to involve everyone in the family, their off-season decorations are more targeted.
Even some of the older malls have modest decorations to boast of.
Raj Kirpalani, committee member in-charge of promotions, Alsa Mall Shopkeeper’s Association, says that the revenue earned from letting out the common area is usually used to do up the mall. Though the mall has most often put up lights, and included festive elements through the years, fierce competition has forced them to spend money on decorations.
“People expect something extra when they enter a mall, and here we do not have a sizeable share of floating population. We are trying to address that and initiatives like these make a huge difference. But, we put up decorations only twice a year, during Diwali and Christmas,” he says.