Tamil Nadu

Mall owners optimistic, retailers want to wait and watch

After five months of closure, malls across the State will re-open on September 1 with the standard operating procedures in place. Retailers who have picked up space at malls indicated that they may not start operations immediately.

“On weekdays, most of the people visit malls to watch films. They spend two hours before the film and an hour after it in shopping. A minimum of 25% of the crowd spends money on shopping. With theatres shut, this business has been wiped out,” said the CEO of a clothing brand that has its presence in two prime malls in Chennai. “I will open my outlet in one mall and analyse consumer behaviour, and based on that, will open the other outlet,” he added.

The store manager of a cosmetics shop said that he received communication from the head office asking not to open the store. “Before the lockdown, our maximum revenues came from the sale of lipsticks and facial makeup kits. With people wearing masks, a lipstick is certainly not their priority,” he said.

Retailers said on average, they pay ₹3 lakh-₹8 lakh a month as rent. “What is the point of opening shops if no consumers walk in? Our overhead costs will go up and it will not make any sense economically,” said a retailer operating out of a mall in Vadapalani.

Suhail Sattar, chairman of the Chennai Chapter of the Retail Association of India, said malls would now get only serious buyers. “The customer will come in with an intention to buy. So lesser window shopping and more purposeful shopping trips,” he said. He added, “It will take some time to get back to ‘normal sales’. I don’t think we will be able to achieve the pre-COVID-19 kind of crowd for the next couple of months at least.”

Mall owners and retail experts, however, feel that things will improve once the shops open, and are quite optimistic about consumers coming in. “As we are starting at the onset of the festive season, we should see traction relatively soon in the next 45-90 days, and shoppers are also waiting to come out in fresh air and re-normalise their lives,” said Munish Khanna, chief revenue officer, Express Avenue. He pointed out that distancing markers had been placed across the mall at all vantage locations of high-footfall density. “We have taken initiatives like contactless payments and digitisation of the menu via apps,” added Mr. Khanna.

Pooja Patti, centre director of the Phoenix MarketCity & Palladium, Chennai, said, “We have put together a set of standard operating procedures, including thermal scanners at the entrance to check temperatures, UV sanitisation of visitors’ bags, automated mall-density checks, foot-sanitisation mats at the entrance, mandatory wearing of masks by visitors throughout their stay at the mall.” She added, “In addition to the integration of dineout through the Nhance app, by Phoenix allows patrons to pre-book an express entry to the mall, locate their favourite stores easily — this will enable customers to make quick and contactless payments, pre-order food from anywhere in the mall and avail free monthly rewards for exploring the latest deals.”

Malls have trained their staff and security personnel on how to handle customers at all entry points and escalators. Instructions have also been given to staff on how to keep the premises clean and how often they need to sanitise. Malls have also put up posters on physical distancing.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 4:02:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/mall-owners-optimistic-retailers-want-to-wait-and-watch/article32491710.ece

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