The next time you drive in to one of the upcoming malls, get set to see yourself and the car also getting pampered. From valet parking attendants finding a safe slot for your four-wheeler to leaving your toddler at the crèche inside while you do all your shopping to finally driving back the washed car from the basement spa; it is all going to be a one-stop-destination.
All this and many more amenities are not far away. The retail skyline in Chennai is going to see a sea change with at least four new malls getting ready to be opened in the second and third quarter of 2010.
Express Avenue Mall inside Club House Road on Anna Salai, coming up on eight lakh sq ft space is so far the largest among the upcoming malls that should open first. Spectrum Mall, said to be ready by June 2010, promises to give residents of Perumbur an all-new shopping experience, which is also the first such mall in this pocket of the city.
Others who would equally vie for attention this year are Chandra Mall in Valasaravakkam, Coromandel Plaza in Rajiv Gandhi Salai and Ramee Mall on Anna Salai. A couple more malls including Riverside Mall on Rajiv Gandhi Salai in the coming years would take the mall retail space to an all-new level.
According to property consultants, the economic slowdown had stalled construction projects, but with things looking up, now promoters are keen on meeting new deadlines. “The year is going to see maximum organised supply coming up with 1.5 million sq ft area getting ready to be delivered from five malls,” says Sanjay Chugh, founder, Skylines Property Consultants. It is amenities such as hyper market, multiplexes, food courts, vanilla space and family entertainment zone that make them a mall. Highlight of these malls would be the anchor stores, which is going to bring in shoppers from upmarket shopping destinations such as Khader Nawaz Khan Road, Ishphani Centre and stand-alone retail branded outlets.
Branded retail chains changed the way people shop. The mall culture is going to add another dimension.
“The per sq ft sale in T. Nagar is the highest in India, but that is more an unorganised market. In Chennai, with malls well spread, it would bring in convenience, comfort and safety for people on the move,” said Mr. Chugh.
The mall culture both for promoters and shoppers is a new concept for the city, which so far had only Chennai Citi Centre and the newest so far Ampa Skywalk on Poonamallee High Road. According to mall promoters besides the clearance procedures, running it is a challenge with a huge investment that goes into it and the return which takes around seven years. “Mall management, which comprise housekeeping, engineering services and parking and security, are the biggest challenge in seeing a good footfall. We bring in professionals who manage these amenities as well to ensure the mall gets income,” says S. Senthil Kumar, Managing Director, Ganga Foundation, promoters of Spectrum Mall. Gurgoan, Noida and Mumbai are the benchmarks for some of the promoters.
While malls are seen as cocoons of shopping convenience, the perennial problem of parking space puts off customers. “Walking through shopping malls should ideally be a stress-relieving exercise. But even before we enter, we need to hunt in vain to park our cars. Managing traffic during festive season is unimaginable,” says Sunantha Narayanan, a software professional.
Retail owners say that it is where innovation in space and idea bring customers back.
Ampa Skywalk, for instance, has installed an electronic meter that updates every incoming vehicle if parking is available or full. Also, it augments parking by diverting four-wheelers to its other properties located close by.
“About 800 cars is the maximum we could achieve in our 14-level car parking area, but the requirement is bound to increase with the multiplex also coming up. We can at the maximum accommodate another 400, so we are also introducing valet parking to achieve that,” says Ampa Palaniappan of Ampa Housing Development.
Besides, on a trial basis the mall is launching ‘Express Exit Format’ whereby payment counters for the parking will be situated at four different places within the mall to avoid any traffic congestion.
Service is seen as the bait to pull customers to their shop.
Uninor, which has laid out elaborate expansion plans in the malls, makes sure customer service executives are trained on various aspects before they are employed.
“We focus on attending to customer needs immediately as they are terribly time-starved,” said Stefan Kercza, Hub Head, Tamil Nadu & Kerala, Uninor.
(With inputs from Liffy Thomas, S. Aishwarya and Alosiyus Xavier Lopez)