Discussing strategies for creating successful retail spaces, the expert panel at the ongoing India Shopping Centre Forum (ISCF) delved into the key performance drivers focusing on the core fundamentals of place making, planning, design and leasing strategies and innovation driven success models to give a picture for the next five years.
During the course of the discussion, Harshvardhan Neotia, MD, Ambuja Realty said that while many ideas may work in good times, very expensive designs may not be feasible in the current economic phase, cost effective and affordable design that considers maintenance outgo would be relevant particularly in such tough times. For instance, instead of putting up benches for people to sit, the use of steps to create inexpensive yet interesting campus like environment is often more enjoyable, observes Neotia.
Addressing the retailer concern that the efforts of place making in a shopping centre could actually lead to crowding out of the serious shopper at the shopping centre, Neotia advised to keep patience and let the habit mature overtime as the same people who hang out at malls eventually make it their preferred shopping destinations.
Emphasising on the need for a clear design brief, Kelvin Ng, CEO, Synergistic Real Estate, China, said that it’s important to communicate the developers’ vision to the architect who has the expertise into mall design. As observed by him, mega malls sometimes try to fill up the space with a lot of entertainment component, which in fact, has a short life cycle.
Shilpa Malik, co-founder and CEO, Starcentres said that tenant mix requires thoughtful consideration and must not be dictated by leasing targets. She advised to move away from an obsession for size and look at bringing in local retailers to create differentiation as opposed to me-too malls offering the same brands across locations regardless of the cultural diversity of Indian consumers.
Pointing to the problem as observed in India, Tony Ward, COO, Leasing & Land Acquisition, The Phoenix Mills Ltd, said that while designs look great on paper, the efficiency in execution is lacking. Decision making in the Indian context, which is largely restricted to the top levels, is one of the reasons leading to unnecessary delays in the process that ultimately result in delayed projects, observes Ward.
When asked about the biggest challenge faced in the process of creating successful retail spaces in the Indian context, Christopher Lanksbury, main board director, Chapman Taylor, UK shared that one of the biggest hurdles is having to conform to every inch of FSI, but then that’s the way it works here and they understand the limitations.
Ward further stressed on the need to design shopping centres with a 20-25 year life period of the building. Retailers are beginning to understand their business better than they did about three years ago. He also pointed out that it’s critical for retailers to learn to optimise every square feet of space to be able to make the most of it without having to pay unnecessarily high rentals for space they do not need.
In a nutshell, it’s better to take it slow and do it right the first time than spending millions to correct the mistakes or bear the burden of a failed property.
— Soma Chaturvedi