How shopping malls can have a longer self life

From roping in retailers such as Decathlon to re-configuring brands malls are forging deals to survive and some have even repositioned themselves to turn profitable


The mall business in India, stagnant for almost a decade, may now be seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Older malls are trying various strategies to stay afloat and attract new and fast-selling stores to take on snazzier, newer malls that have come up in their vicinity.

From roping in retailers such as Decathlon to re-configuring brands and squeezing existing shops to make way for new tenants, malls are forging deals to survive and some have even repositioned themselves to turn profitable.

In Mumbai, the 10-year-old Inorbit Mall revamped itself and offered a red-carpet deal to Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB to compete with three-year-old Infinity Mall half a kilometer away. They shrank the floor space provided to Lifestyle and a couple of other stores and gave 20,000 square feet to Zara’s rival to drive footfalls.

“Inorbit saw an initial dip in footfalls of about 15% when Infinity came up in the vicinity,” said Susil Dungarwal, a retail and shopping mall specialist in Mumbai. “By taking proactive measures, they now have an average annual growth of 25-30%.” In Hyderabad, Manjeera Mall is getting sports store Decathlon with 10,000 square feet on the ground floor to attract customers after facing tough competition from three-year-old Sujana Forum Mall nearby.

Bengaluru-based Westgate Mall in Rajajinagar is getting Lifestyle and Home Center in a value outlet format with 10,000 square feet each. It had to re-position itself as a value mall after Orion Mall and Mantri Mall came up in the vicinity Malls are taking such steps when the retail industry lost 3.5 million square feet of space as five shopping centers shut down and 10 vacant ones were converted into offices, according to property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle.

With new malls such as Vega City in Bengaluru, The Pavilion in Pune and Grand Central Seawoods in Mumbai set to come up by 2020, JLL estimates the rivalry will only get stiffer. By the end of 2017, about a dozen malls might shut down, the consultant said.

Retailers, especially from the US and Europe, have been showing increasing interest in the India market, due to growing opportunities in this sector, real estate consultant CBRE said. Over 40 major international brands have entered the country over the past two years, CBRE said in a note in February.

Amid the flux in India’s retailing business, rentals for tenants in malls haven’t fallen. They typically increase by 15% every three years, according to industry experts. The lease period for an anchor store has remained unchanged at between 15 and 21 years, while for vanilla stores, the term has reduced from nine years to six years in some malls.

When a new mall comes up in the vicinity, the older shopping centers respond by differentiating their offerings and try to forge deals without affecting rentals. In one case, a mall in Bengaluru lured an anchor brand by offering to pay for doing up the interiors.

Malls are even getting in small retailers to differentiate their offerings. In Cochin, Oberon Mall suffered after the 1.5 million square foot Lulu Mall came up less than half a kilometer away, taking away customers and prompting retailers to vacate. The developers responded by spending about Rs 5 crore to revive the mall. They introduced Oberon Chanta, a collection of 20 small stores on the third floor, which previously housed a home furniture store.

Bengaluru-based Forum Neighbourhood Mall in Whitefield is focussing on getting lesser-known brands from tier-II cities to get an edge over VR Mall and Inorbit Mall in the neighborhood. Recently, the mall roped in Mysore-based hypermarket brand Loyal World. The management is now in talks with Mangalore-based brand Harsha Electronics. Total Mall in Bengaluru repositioned itself as a neighborhood mall that’s come to be known as Market Square since 2012. The mall was practically empty before that and it turned around in 2015 after Lighthouse Mall Management took up the project.

Ten-year-old Cosmos Mall in Bengaluru underwent a facelift and was repositioned as a neighborhood mall christened Brookfield Mall. Even after being in the right location, the mall was affected when Inorbit, Phoenix Market City, and VR Mall opened.

“It lacked design and cinema halls. In a 1.5 lakh square foot space, they just had Pantaloons and Taco Bell running like high street stores with their own entrances,” said Neeraj Duggal, managing director of Lighthouse Mall Management company. “Now 80% of the mall is operational with an Inox, new brands, pubs, and salons.”


Experts said great mall management plays a significant role in maintaining footfalls and sales. According to Pankaj Renjhen, managing director of retail services at JLL India, developers have realized that good mall management and services like free parking, baby care room and a mall helpdesk are some ways to keep footfalls stable and boost growth in same-store sales.

He said F&B and entertainment contribute to about 15-20% of the total mall space compared with 5-10% three to four years ago. “Some malls are also going to the extent of getting fashion consultants on board to assist customers,” he said.


Diwanshu Mittal, assistant vice president of retail at JLL, said there is a need for smaller malls to churn their brand mix and bring in new shops and stores to help them remain relevant. “Malls can also change their positioning and convert to a neighborhood center to cater to a particular catchment. For example, a Gold Souk or an F&B mall or a mall with big box retail,” he said. Experts said that with high streets across the country dying out, the neighborhood mall concept is booming.

Malls around the country are also getting in luxury brands to differentiate themselves. Select CityWalk in New Delhi is now a premium mall and houses brands such as Burberry, Armani, and Aéropostale. Ambiance Mall in Gurgaon will welcome Michael Kors in a couple of months. Dungarwal said cities are reaching saturation point in terms of a number of shopping malls. “Mumbai has had no growth as there are no new malls since the last three years, although developers like Maker Group and Shapoorji Pallonji are planning to enter the mall industry,” he said.

Malls such as West End, TDI, CitySquare, and Westgate in New Delhi started about 10 years ago and have seen footfalls slide with the emergence of newer malls like the Pacific Mall in Subhash Nagar and Unity One Mall in Janakpuri. TDI gave a portion of their ground-floor space to Westside, which brought in significant footfalls but failed to bring back its former glory. These malls have limited branded stores and retail outlets, with mainly wine and beer shops and food outlets such as Wimpy’s, Burger King and Subway. Other than that, the buildings are relatively empty. Although some of them have movie theaters, they are hardly visited.

Experts said of the 450-plus malls in the country, 70% were low-grade malls. Even though new malls are coming up, they will be ready only by 2020-21.

Mittal said supply was very limited in New Delhi because only a few developers such as DLF, Unity Group, and Bharti invested in retail. Only one mall is coming up in the next two years in the capital – Vegas in Dwarka.


With malls, everything counts, especially the perception of customers. Along with malls, customers have changed. Keeping in mind their necessities, they have learned to prioritize and visit malls according to time, availability and leisure.

Annie Varghese, a college student in New Delhi, used to visit CitySquare Mall in Rajouri Garden before its sheen faded. “The place lost its appeal as I grew older and they never had anything new to offer anymore,” she said.

Varghese now shops at Pacific Mall in Subhash Nagar, which houses brands such as Forever 21, Charles & Keith, Zara and the newly introduced Decathlon. “Apart from being closer to my home, Pacific has big brands, a food court with class and a great multiplex for movie buffs,” she said. Consumers in India tend to go for larger brands and better spaces with variety more than smaller spaces.

Purab Kulkarni, a banker and father of two from Noida, said visiting the new, big malls was an experience. “With the boom of world-known retail chains, brands, and activities, it has become a whole new experience. We can celebrate festivals here with our kids as the decorations and activities put up for shoppers are impressive,” he said. He added that Christmas was his favorite time to visit malls with his family. The growing popularity of online shopping is also a threat to retail malls.

According to Boston Consulting Group, while the number of stores may be still be increasing among best-practice retailers, overall productivity per store is stagnating— or declining. To meet this challenge, stores may have to be re-imagined to create richer shopping experiences that reflect their customers’ needs and shopping preferences, BCG said.



Shopping malls above 350,000 sq ft most preferred by retailers

Global and domestic retailers seem to prefer bigger shopping malls to set up shop, with more than 40% of the respondents favouring malls of 350,000 sq ft and above, according to a survey by property consultancy CBRE.

“This allows them to gain access to a more varied retail environment ranging from supermarkets, cinemas, kids entertainment zones -therby attracting greater footfalls,” said the report named India Retailer Sentiment Survey.

Real estate cost, quality of shopping mall and incentives or rent-free period emerged as the top factors to influence the store location by retailers. Suitable store size or floor and right micro-market were among the other challenging factors for selecting the store location.

Occupation cost, size of mall and catchment area or location emerged as the top three factors impacting location selection in terms of malls. While, ease of access or parking, location and external ambience were the top factors impacting location selection in terms of high streets.

The National Capital Region, comprising Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, followed by Mumbai continued to serve as gateway cities, featuring at the top of retailer expansion plans due to their high levels of brand consciousness and consumer purchasing power.

“A point to note is that fashion and apparel retailers in particular are able to generate higher sales in the ‘all-season cities’ of NCR as compared to other cities, further contributing to their popularity,” said the report.

While the residential real estate segment continue to grapple with slow sales and rising inventory, office and retail segments are showing a strong growth.

Private equity investment in retail real estate surged to Rs 3,350 crore in the first half of 2016, the highest since 2008, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

Also with the government clearing tax hurdles for real estate investment trusts (REITs), retail assets are increasingly witnessing rise in demand as it can also listed under a REIT portfolio.

New malls also registered the highest half yearly supply in five years at 4.8 million sq ft in H1 2016, against just 0.2 msf in H1 2015.

NCR accounted for the highest supply during H1 2016, grabbing 64% of the share in new supply during the first half of 2016, followed by Pune and Mumbai.

Source: CredaiNCR.Org

Enhancing mall experience by leveraging technology

Of late, there have been several murmurs on the death of brick-and-mortar retailing thanks to the success of e-commerce. But there can be no denying that while online shopping is price-related, the brick-and-mortar model is all about social interactions. Hence, malls have evolved beyond ‘shopping destinations’ and are offering an entertainment element along with retail options. Additionally, there are some clear differentiators that cater to the different needs of the shopper.

For instance, ‘sales’ which are available both online and at shopping malls see customers preferring to visit the retailer at a mall for that all-important touch and feel element. One of the main drawbacks of a sale is that usually a product once purchased cannot be replaced, therefore, especially for an emergency purchase, it is the mall that a customer prefers to go to so as to handle the product in person before investing in it.

Even though online shopping is growing, customers still prefer to see and feel the product since it helps them determine a product’s relevance for themselves. Also, customers most often have to make a decision of purchase on faith while shopping online, hoping that the features, quality and materials listed are true to their word. At the mall, they can not only judge this for themselves, they can also browse through other brands before taking a decision. Most online portals need up to a week and sometimes more to deliver a product. Speedier deliveries when promised are only available for a few select items on the site.

Earlier, visiting a mall was a rather prestigious affair, not any more. These days, “malling” has come to be everybody’s favourite pastime. That’s because apart from shopping, malls also offer various other options such as dinning, entertainment and movies that help customers enjoy an active social life as well as spend quality time with friends and family. So, consumers today prefer malls not only for shopping, but also to hang out. Malls have ceased to be a marketplace for just selling and buying; they have evolved into community centres. This appeals to customers across all age groups as it gives them the advantage to experience everything at one place.

Rising incomes and enhancement in infrastructure have led to an expansion in consumer markets and resulted in accelerating the convergence of consumer tastes. With increasing income, consumers are becoming more mature and now demanding superior quality and premium brands that inspire trust and loyalty.

Hence, malls are adopting innovative techniques for turning a simple shopping trip into a social event. The design and architecture of a mall is also a vital tool which can be used to ensure an enjoyable experience, additionally attracting and retaining customers with its various well-placed offerings. The basic factors to be considered are enough space for shopping, preventing bottlenecks, using creative interiors and a welcoming ambience. Carefully designed malls also satisfy and cater to the requirements of today’s customer who is conscious about the environment.

It is non-debatable that digitalisation is the need of the hour today and the demand of customers. As the world gets increasingly dependent on technology, we find people have easier access to internet than electricity or water. Hence, to be relevant in this growing digital world, one of the solutions is to collaborate with retailers to use technology as the means to create the next-gen shopping experience for customers. For example, when the renowned global apparel brand, Zara, launched their shopping app, they included a barcode scanner feature. The app helps the customer scan an item on display at the Zara store and access detailed information about it, including if a size or alternate colour not available at the store at the moment can be bought online.

This innovation not only helps customers judge the product’s quality for themselves at the store but due to the added online connectivity, it further enhances the experience. Such innovations should be implemented so that customers experience a unique experience while shopping at the retail stores.

Rather than considering the 35 million online shoppers in India today as a challenge, shopping malls can use this to their benefit. Digital platforms and social media are now being used in several innovative ways to enhance customer experience at malls, especially by way of apps which consumers can access on the go. They can stay constantly updated with the entertainment, shopping, dining options available at a mall. Not just that, they also get notifications on all the available discounts, special offers and events at the mall. Customers can also provide feedback through the app for malls to improve and evolve along with customers’ choices. The attempt is to stay connected with customers and keep them informed about all that is on offer. Not just apps, there are also social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter through which malls can conduct various contests, quizzes and games. This helps increase the frequency of visits and boosts customer loyalty.

What is important to remember is that in the Indian context, shopping is often related to momentous events. Celebrations, festivals, weddings, birthdays or simply an occasion for friends and family to commemorate, results in the process of buying something new, getting a sense of ceremony. This can only be felt in person and not a computer click. Therefore, adopting such approaches and ideas will help shopping malls create an enhanced experience for their customers and maintain that special bond which is vital to maintaining their appeal.

Source: CredaiNCR.Org