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Coimbatore: Gearing up for retail revolution

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Organised retail in Coimbatore so far is a high street story. Although Coimbatore is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu after Chennai, but it is yet to get attention from large number of retailers the way other cities in India have been receiving. The reason behind, according to the industry sources, is that there is no real catalyst in the form of shopping mall to boost the retail growth in the city. But this long wait has almost come to an end as the city will witness the opening of two gigantic shopping malls during the early part of 2010. With the opening of these two malls – Fun Republic and Brookfield Plaza – people in Coimbatore will experience organised retail boom and find quality space for shopping and entertainment.

With operational stores like Big Bazaar, Megamart, Nilgiris, Spencer’s Retail in value format and several national brands including Van Heusen and entertainment player like Big Cinemas in the city, the launch of the mall Fun Republic, Coimbatore will witness the foray of Shoppers Stop and five-screen Fun Cinemas in the city, besides space for a hypermarket and a host of retail brands across segments. According to Girish Pande, COO, E-City Property Management & Services (EPMS), the company behind the developement of Fun Republic mall in Coimbatore, the property is scheduled to be opened in March-April 2010 and will spread across six floors encompassing a total retail space of around 5.5 lakh square feet. According to him, Fun Republic will open its door with over 90 per cent occupancy of total retail space. Another project called Brookfield Plaza by Brookfield Estate Development of around 5 lakh square feet size is also coming up in the city and will be operational during the same period. The project is located at the old market of the city. The two malls, as the industry believes, will redefine the way people in Coimbatore shop until now.

In a recent report – ‘Coimbatore – An Emerging Real Estate Destination’ conducted by real estate consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj (JLLM), Coimbatore is shown as hugely prosperous city with indisputable prospects and a perfect South Indian real estate investment destination of the future. The study further stated that this tier III city has everything in shape, including telecom, power, a highly skilled work force, a rapid pace of infrastructure development and a pro-active Government that is aggressively promoting the city. As a result, a number of top multi-national companies are migrating into this city and the manner in which the organised retail, hospitality, entertainment and residential sectors are growing, the study says, Coimbatore is indeed going to be a hot spot destination of the future in-spite of being into tier III category.

Coimbatore is a hugely prosperous city with indisputable prospects and a perfect South Indian real estate investment destination of the future: JLLM

On similar note, industry experts believe that the city will soon experience an entire gamut of retail development as people in Coimbatore are capable of enough disposable income due to their entrepreneurial nature and of late are equally becoming brand conscious and lifestyle aspirant as well. According to the industry sources, as the city is a very good market and was untapped for a long time, recently, lot of national and international brands have been found doing fabulous business in Coimbatore. Therefore, it is a very good time to come up with a mall in the city amidst changing consumption pattern of the localites and the behaviour of the people that are slowly but steadily taking shape according to the demand of modern retail.

Retail experience:

Arvind Brands, the retail arm of Arvind Ltd, operates four stores in the city that include two large format Megamart stores and one store each of lifestyle brand Arrow and Flying Machine. Elaborating on the retail experience of his group, J Suresh, CEO, Brands & Retail, Arvind Brands, said, “The stores are really doing well. During festivals like Diwali, we find overwhelming response in our stores in this city.” However, he stated that the company has not felt any major impact yet because of the absence of mall culture in the city, as organised retail turned out from high street only and the city has enough of it. He further stated that in Coimbatore, like any other cities in India, traditional shopping centres are very much established and popular in absence of a proper mall culture and they are doing reasonably well.

Big Bazaar, the hyper market format of Future Group, also operates one store located at old market called Oppanakara Street in Coimbatore and the company is satisfied with the way the store has been performing. Sharing his retail experience in the city, Rajan Malhotra, president – Retail Strategy, Future Group, stated, “We have a very large store in Coimbatore. It houses products from general merchandise to fashion and also has a food court attached to it.” He further stated that the company has tried something unique in this market and offered Thali at Rs 10 each in lunch time and found a very good response from the customers on it. “The response was absolutely phenomenal,” asserts Malhotra.

Retail prospect:

Industry experts say that people in Coimbatore are capable enough to experience the international standard of shopping experience in malls and modern retail but they don’t have the choices and options yet. There are some shopping complexes in Coimbatore that are traditionally conceptualised and these complexes have been witnessing very good footfalls. So from this observation, it is expected that the sooner the malls get operational the better the shopping experience would become and there would be enough footfalls not less than the footfalls at malls in places like Mumbai and Bengaluru. Elaborating on the structure of consumers of the city, Pande, at E-City Property Management & Services (EPMS) stated that Coimbatore is basically an entrepreneurial city and for the last few years IT companies are also coming in and modern job culture is picking up. “It is a very cash rich city as well. You can find A+ and A groups, B and C as well in terms of annual income of the households in Coimbatore,” stated Pande. He further mentioned that there is a potential group of young customers because of the exposure of latest options for jobs in the city and as a result lots of young professionals are migrating in. Pande stated that Coimbatore has all the possibilities and potential like other cities including Ludhiana, Lucknow and Chandigarh.

Coimbatore at a glance:

Key retail stores/ brands operational: Big Bazaar, Megamart, Nilgiris, Spencer’s Retail, @home, Van Heusen, Big Cinemas.
Prime retail locations: Oppanakara Street, Cross Cut Road, BB Road, TV Swami Road, Avinashi Road and Trichy Road.
Population: Around 20 lakh.
Growth factor: Coimbatore, the second largest city in Tamil Nadu, is strategically located between Chennai, Bangalore and Kochi. IT majors like Tata Consultancy Services, Cognizant, Spheris, Perot Systems and Bosch are operational. This tier III city has all the key pointers of infrastructure, including telecom, power, a highly skilled work force, a rapid pace of infrastructure development and a pro-active Government that is aggressively promoting the city.

Emerging market:

Retail in Coimbatore is mostly high street centric and the locations are categorised as traditional high streets, new high streets and emerging markets. Traditional high streets include Oppanakara Street and Cross Cut Road, where as new high streets include BB Road and TV Swami Road and emerging markets include Avinashi Road and Trichy Road. With the Fun Republic mall operational, the city will witness a full fledged new market in the form of Avinashi Road, which is believed to be the widest road in the city that connects to the airport of the city. The other mall named Brookfield Plaza of around 5 lakh square feet, however, will strengthen retail scope in the old market in Coimbatore. “While Brookfield Plaza will cater to the old saturated market place, Fun Republic is going to cater to the new development area of the city,” stated Pande.

Elaborating on the catchment and the traffic that Fun Republic has to offer to the retailers, Pande stated that lots of residential properties are coming up in the neighbouring areas of Fun Republic, which are going to be the prime success factors of the mall. “Close to Fun Republic, there is a place called Tirupur, which takes around one hour drive from the the location of Fun Republic, and is the knitwear hub of India. We are expecting a good traffic from that place as well,” informed Pande.

Looking forward:

The JLLM report suggests that the city will soon poses about 1 million square feet of retail mall space in organised retail that is expected to come up by 2011. The retailers are also very keen about the market and want to explore the untapped market further. Malhotra at Big Bazaar stated that there is high demand for general merchandise products in the city and the company plans to open one more store. “The city has a good potential and we love to open one more store in that city,” affirmed Malhotra.

Not only grocery and fashion retailers, entertainment retailers as well expect a good return from the city. As part of the plan, Big Cinemas informed that it will open another six-screen multiplex in the city, though it did not disclose the location. But according to Pande two malls are not enough for the city of a population of 20 lakh. He believes that there is a potential of around 4-5 malls that can be developed and can do enormous business in the city.

Sarimul Islam Choudhury

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