The Indian retail market has gone through a prolonged (and sometimes painful) process of transformation. With rapid development across the country, India has witnessed the emergence of a well-entrenched mall culture over the past decade. However, there are several malls in the country which are faring less than well.
Failing Malls – A Growing Problem
The not insignificant number of under-performing malls in the country definitely gives rise to concern. There is no dearth of instances where mall developers have scrapped the entire blueprint and business model and converted their malls into office spaces. The reasons for the lack of success of these malls vary.
Some of the challenges that the developers of these malls have not been able to address are providing for adequate parking and scientific people movement within the malls, coming up with a dynamic plan for upgrading facilities, attracting a suitable tenant mix and proper positioning.
There is now a distinct need for mall developers to introspect on the factors that contribute to either the success or failure of a mall. For instance, there is an increasing awareness among mall developers that leasing mall spaces as opposed to selling them is the way to go. Malls in which spaces are individually sold (or ‘strata sold’) tend to suffer from the absence of proper mall management – which is now the acknowledged fulcrum for success, regardless of how large or well-conceived the mall is.
There are basic parameters that mall developers must keep in mind at the very conception and design stage of their malls. Location is, of course, a vital ingredient for the success of any mall. Approach and accessibility, especially in terms of proximity to the key centres and ingress and egress of the mall, are equally important.
|The mall must have adequate facilities and provide retailers with good accessibility to their stores, space for storage and staff utilities. Very importantly, it must get the parking equation right.
Untangling The Parking Knot
A mall that does not provide sufficient and properly planned parking in India is headed for disaster. In India, the issue of parking is a challenge to both mall owners and customers. Creating parking facilities when the cost of land is high is a very capital-intensive decision for a mall developer. This is especially true if such measures are attempted to be enhanced in retrospect. As a general guideline, developer must provide parking while keeping the size of the mall in mind. The decision on how much is needed and how much is sufficient is a critical one.
Rotation of parking slots is another important function, as malls experience more footfalls on weekends, during which customers spend more time in
malls. Parking must not become an issue in high traffic periods. If a mall cannot provide enough conventional parking, it must have innovative parking facilities such as multi-level and/or automated parking systems.
Since convenience is of prime importance in a mall, the access and exits to car parking is yet another factor besides the parking area itself. The more successful malls even provide valet service to attract more patrons by providing them with more ease of access.
While the future may bring malls that have public transport connectivity, we are not quite there yet. Metros and buses connecting directly to malls can bring down the usage of personal cars, and play a major role in be dealing with challenges such as parking and increased traffic. Until then, mall developers are constrained upon to make the most of existing infrastructure.
The Mall Management Solution
The baseline philosophy behind the creation of any mall is that it must be a place that continually attracts people into its premises, keeping them engaged and tempting them to stay for longer periods. This cannot be done just by providing a massive number of shops. Today, Indian mall visitors expect various entertainment options and engagement mechanisms, as well. Malls cannot be just shopping complexes – they must be one-stop family destinations. If they fail at this, they invariably fail completely.
With these and other reasons why malls can potentially become under-productive and sub-optimal, mall developers are now discovering that professional mall management can be a catch-all solution. In fact, one of the most common causes for the failure of malls is that they were are not professionally managed and promoted. High-grade mall management is the single-most reason why some malls have managed to perform well even during the worst periods of economic distress.
Professional mall management is about a lot more than just keeping up the facilities in a shopping centre. It is about strategizing and implementing success formulae that have been specifically tailored to the mall. Often, a professional mall management firm can undo a significant amount of ‘done damage’ by reinventing the mall’s positioning, facilities and operations almost from the ground up.
Significantly, a mall management agency can result in operating costs reducing by between 5-7% in an up-and-running mall, and by up to 10% if it is engaged at the very inception stage. However, the cost-saving element is just one side of the story. With the implementation of professional mall management, even a languishing mall can be realigned into a destination that provides the needed success ingredients – and an overall ‘experience’ for customer.
A mall management agency can re-engineer the shopping complex’ parking arrangements, tenant mix and internal customer traffic, and also assume the responsibility of promotional activities. Simultaneously, such an agency will ensure optimal staffing solutions and keep all facilities within the mall running flawlessly.
Not surprisingly, more and more Indian mall developers are now adopting the mall management mantra as a one-stop solution to ensure that their investments reap the best possible returns for them.