For a mall not to be visually appealing is unthinkable. That perhaps is one of the most important factors that differentiates one mall from the other considering the tenant mix, food and entertainment options remain more or less similar. And keeping in mind the opportunities a mall has to play with its visual appeal with umpteen festivals that India celebrates, there is no reason why there shouldn’t be enough play of colours and props to add a dash of surprise element to the mall at regular intervals.
CMO, Nexus Mall, Nishank Joshi says, “India is a country of festivals. We are also people who love to decorate our homes during these festivals. Mall decor in India therefore reflects the inner festive spirit. The mall comes alive and shoppers tend to feel at home and it lifts them from their mundane lifestyles. Mall decor gives the feeling to the people that everything is all right with the world and one sees a definite positive impact both in footfalls and consumption when the mood is set right by relevant decor.”
Mall Head – Growel’s 101 Mall, Vikas Shetty adds, “Malls are no longer considered as places reserved just for shopping. Predominantly, people visit malls to spend time with their loved ones simultaneously fulfilling their retail, entertainment or dining needs. Like an experiential ambient zone where one likes to dwell around and spend his/ her leisure time. Hence, it is imperative for a mall to give its consumers a holistic experience which involves a complete sensory treat along with focusing on the core consumer requirements.”
Reiterating this, CEO, West Pioneer Properties (India) Pvt. Ltd, Gaurang Agrawal shares, “Urban development and planning in today’s scenario largely lacks open areas for recreation and natural environment and surroundings. We have key public recreation environments and spaces that are being augmented by malls in today’s urban environment (both Tier-I and Tier-II) due to easy accessibility of open playgrounds, gardens. This means that malls have to start catering to this new paradigm shift in consumer behaviour and expected experiences. Due to the new consumer behaviour malls have started experimenting with natural mall décor environments, including green bodies. It has been proven that when malls are well landscaped, customers are likely to visit malls and even willing to travel long distances.”
Another very interesting USP that mall décor extends is that to stand out in the virtual world of social media where pictures speak a thousand words.
Joshi explains, “Relevant decor also helps create a lot of buzz on social media. People start sharing pictures and this gives rise to some great digital and offline ROI. Good décor coupled with smart digital media promotion can create the required buzz where a bulk of your shopping population is active.”
Highlighting how mall décor also can be used to attract media attention, Mukesh Kumar from Infiniti Mall says, “Mall decor is to enhance the visual appeal. A great display gets word-of-mouth buzz. Sometimes a particularly special holiday display is the kind of thing the media likes to cover during the shopping season, helping provide you with instant coverage.”
Understanding the Design Dynamics
Citing how the understanding of mall décor has evolved over the years, Joshi shares that there was a time when mall decor meant loud colors and trying to put something in every part of the mall. According to him, the choice of colors is more understated now and decor is limited to a few areas.
He adds, “This is giving way for more classier stuff without the mall looking like a Christmas tree. I am a firm believer in a clutter-free activity/ décor. At Nexus, we have consciously tried to move away from the traditional loud décor and tried to keep it cleaner and make it more innovative at the same time. For instance, at Ahmedabad One this year, we did a month long Augmented Reality décor and activity which was completely noise free and it has already reach to over 10 lakh people through our Facebook post. The number of people that took pictures, shot videos and uploaded them on their personal profiles across social media channels.”
According to Shetty, “It is not possible to have a public place which is only utility driven. Hence, here your ambient elements like choice of lights, ventilation, music, aroma therapy, lounging area, etc. play an important role.”
“Decor plays so many roles depending on the initiative it is used in,” Joshi asserts. “In some it is present just to add festive cheer say a Diwali, whilst in EOSS, we can get quirky as the need is to highlight sales from our partners in a way that each stands out. So, really as in cricket where one is presented different pitches each time, it’s our objectives for that initiative that drive the kind of decor we go in for.”
With limited options earlier, the mall developers most often than not have had to draw inspiration from international malls when it comes to mall décor. There were a handful of experts within the country which also gave the risk of monotony setting in with regards to the décor of one mall and that of the other.
Accentuating this and sharing how things have now changes, Joshi says, “Mall decor hitherto was restricted to a few companies in India and therefore one had similar options being thrown up. But now not only do we have players across India and outside of retail coming up with interesting designs, we also have international companies coming up with great ideas. Of course, the timelines are a factor that decides how good or bad your decor turns out. The better mall companies actually freeze their designs more than a quarter in advance now paving the way for stunning stuff.”
Shetty states, “Organised retail is still an emerging industry in India and the mall industry is not more than two decades old. Yes, we do have some great talent in India. However, what we lack is relevant experience and that is where we need assistance from experienced hands belonging to developed countries. When it comes to temporary seasonal decor that we have during festive season or pertaining to events, we have a strong presence and have agencies who put up a real good show.”
Sharing details on the décor at Growel’s 101, Shetty notes, ” We are India’s first theme mall based on a Venetian theme. Growel’s 101 skilfully integrates vertical contours to provide a nostalgic journey that is both, passage and experience. Growel’s 101 is designed by Kaplan McLaughlin Diaz and Form 4. The design revolves around a typical neo-classical architecture with the use of many arches, colonnades, stoned flooring and extensive use of internal and façade lighting to enhance the mood and to give visitors a European feel. Unlike other present day malls in India, the designs at Growel’s 101 are greatly influenced by internal and external architecture.
We also have been doing seasonal decorations in the mall throughout the year blending with festive or seasonal euphoria.”
Agrawal’s Metro Junction Mall has a lot of natural elements as part of its décor which gives it a perfect balanced of bring visually appealing as well as being utility driven. He says, “The décor is simple and done keeping customer convenience in mind. Also, we have incorporated natural activity area elements like open-air amphitheater and natural seating areas. We have a huge open atrium, which is used as an amphitheater and we hold several cultural events there. We have water bodies and greenery which covers the natural aspect of décor. Therefore, design context is based on both utility as well as having visual appeal.”
Overdoing the mall is passé as we see from above. Each mall developer is looking at having the ambience elegant and classy with a mix of it being visually appealing and have an element of it being utility driven. Mall of Dubai remains an inspiration in terms
of design and décor. Perhaps, if we would have that big a real estate space in India for a mall, we would see something similar as well.
And to conclude with Joshi’s words of advice: “Keep the décor simple and minimal. The focus should shift from how much to how shareable the décor is. The aspiration should not be how full the mall looks with décor, but how elegant it appears now.