Mohali-based North Country Mall is a sophisticated mélange of shopping centre and resort featuring renowned national and international brands for retail, F&B, banquets and entertainment.
The western styled, mixed-use development, sprawled over 22 acres of prime space along NH-21, is one of the biggest malls in North India. A quintessence of growing mall culture in Punjab, especially Tri-city, it has positioned itself as a massive ‘game changer’ effecting the transformation of the retail landscape of the region.
Centrally located to the states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, the Union Territory of Chandigarh also serves as the capital of former two. As an important financial and commercial hub of North India, Chandigarh is hailed as one of the most sought after retail destinations in the country. Buoyed by modern infrastructure, fast-paced lifestyles, increasing affluence and growing creed of discerning consumers having the inclination to splurge, consumerism in Chandigarh has truly come of age now. This, consequently, has bolstered the growth of avant-garde retail spaces and malls. According to real estate consulting firm Jones Lang LaSalle (India), the city is the ninth largest in India in the Market Potential Index. The metropolitan of Chandigarh-Mohali-Panchkula, collectively called Tri-city, boasts of a number of quality malls. However, the latest flavour of mall development seems to be of mixed-use development. The North Country Mall (NCM), one of the frontrunners in this arena, has recently opened in Kharar, Mohali. The western style, mixed-use development is the quintessence of growing mall culture in the region. It has positioned itself as a ‘game changer’ effecting major transformation of the retail landscape of Punjab, especially the Tri-city.
The North Country Mall is the flagship project of Gumberg India, a subsidiary of the 85-year-old US headquartered real estate development company Gumberg Global. The project has several firsts to its credit. For instance, it is Gumberg’s first project outside of the United States. The company plans to invest over US$ 7 billion over the next seven years to create, own and manage over 20 regionally dominant malls pan India. The project is also the first 100 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in real estate sector in Punjab.
NCM is a mixed-use development. B. Anantharaman, MD and CEO of Gumberg India, explicates the rationale for developing NCM as mixed-use property: “The North Country Mall is a mega structure built with an investment of over Rs. 500 crore. We have obtained Change of Land Use (CLU) certificate for the development of shopping mall, hotel and office. The company has opted for the mixed-use development model because it translates into better utilisation of floor space index (FSI). From the customers’ points of view, the facility presents a wider choice and reason to visit the place repeatedly since it would house leading national and international brands for retail, food and beverage, banquets and entertainment. We believe it will be truly a revolutionary shopping experience for the visitors. As of now, we are fully focused to turn NCM into a retail destination to reckon with.” Notably, NCM with a total retail space of 1 million sq.ft. (built-up area of 2 million sq.ft.) is one of the biggest malls in North India. It began operations on 14 February 2014, with the launch of 75,000 sq.ft. Reliance Market, PVR Cinemas with 9 screens including 2 Gold Class with a total capacity of 1,800 seats, a lavish 36,000 sq.ft. food court and several fine dining restaurants. Eighty-five percent of the mall is expected to be operational by the end of April 2014.
NCM is strategically located in Kharar township on National Highway (NH 21) and is easily accessible from the Tri-city including Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula. Built on a 22-acre prime land along the highway, the site is about a 15–20 minutes’ drive from Sector 17, the heart of Chandigarh city, and a 30-minute drive from Panchkula. It is also in close proximity to Mohali railway station and Sector 43, Chandigarh bus stand. Moreover, the site falls under the purview of the International Airport located at a distance of 17 km, which is easily accessible via the upcoming highway. Anantharaman opines that the overall accessibility of the site is excellent and it has the potential to become one of the prime city destinations. He informs: “The catchment population comprises of a large segment of affluent, young and impulsive buyers, which may lead to good conversion ratio at the mall. We feel that NCM has the locational advantage to serve the needs of neighbouring cities too.”
Key design elements
A sophisticated mélange of a shopping centre and a leisure facility, the North Country Mall targets the well-off and deep-pocketed middle-class consumers. It has been designed by 40-year-old award winning US-based architect firm TVS Design. Inspired from ‘Resort experience’, the layout is similar to the US malls, which gives it an edge over its Indian peers.
Anantharaman outlines the design strategy: “Our goal was to create an immersive resort-like shopping environment. The harmonic flow of nature and structure combined with an atmosphere of warmth and comfort were crucial to concept design. NCM’s overall design emphasises on key features, such as ample parking space, multiple access points, smooth customer traffic flow, high ceilings and wide corridors, expansive central atriums, distinctive and inviting storefronts and other eye-catching architectural elements. We even have specially designed facilities for physically challenged customers. In a nutshell, we want to provide a unique, fun-filled and exhilarating shopping experience to all of our customers.”
The North Country Mall is technologically sophisticated as well. It is also equipped with 4g technology. The thermally insulated building ensures comfortable temperatures and ice bank technology tackles energy demand. The eco-friendly design makes it a zero discharge building and producer of organic manure. What’s more, the developers are planning s 50-kW rooftop solar power plant.
Tenancy, revenue generation
NCM’s tenant list comprises domestic and international brands from different sectors as in food service, fashion and lifestyle, retail, entertainment, etc. It has roped in crowd-pulling marquee names like Reliance Market, Marks & Spencer, Zara, Lifestyle, Home Centre, Central, PVR Cinemas, Decathlon, Store99, Max, and Pantaloons as its anchor tenants. Whilst, the prospective vanilla stores at NCM include renowned brand names like Swarovski, Hush Puppies, Van Heusen, LP, Hidesign, Levi’s, Apple, Color Plus, Samsung, Nike, Carlton London, POE, adidas Reebok, Crocs, Pinelli, Colorbar, Mothercare, Costa Coffee, Café Coffee Day, Beer Café, Pizaa Vitto, Baskin Robbins, Microbrewery, Elle, Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger, Bose, Croma, etc. Many of these stores are already functional and the rest are expected to become operational soon.
As regards revenue generation, the mall is primarily looking at two major earning sources: Rental income from tenants and in-mall advertising and activations. Anantharaman further elucidates NCM’s revenue generation model: “At NCM, the grand drop-off points, large surface parking fields and expansive central atriums provide distinctive branding and leasing opportunities, as well as plenty of public space for community-centred events. It has featured walls within and outside the façade meant exclusively for luxury and lifestyle brands as signage areas, which we would be offering them to showcase their brand among the right target group.” He further informs that the other mall areas like amphitheatre, social hub, south plaza, east plaza, food and entertainment section, etc. will also be utilised for live display of brands and various on-ground activations.
In addition to own management professionals, Gumberg has appointed Jones Lang LaSalle as the mall management company for NCM. Anantharaman clarifies: “The move is aimed at optimising operations of the North Country Mall and ensuring superior shopping experience to the visitors.” He also mentions that they have separate teams for ‘front of the house’ and ‘heart of the house’ operations. Deployed at three locations within the mall, the front of the house customer care team mainly takes care of overall operations, for instance, optimisation of trading hours, electronic directories, events information, NCM merchandise, concierge lounge, ATM machines, round-the-clock on-site security and the like. On the other hand, the heart of the house team is largely responsible for management aspects related to building repair and maintenance, employee training, housekeeping and ambience management, waste management, security and risk management, and many more.
The success of a large scale, mixed-use development essentially depends on what all it has to offer in terms convenience, comfort, diversity, mall essence, luxury and entertainment. Anantharaman points out that features like unique lighting fixtures lending vibrancy to shopping areas, trendy and comfy furniture enhance comfort. A wide array of brands at different price-points stacked on different floors will contribute towards higher consumer satisfaction at NCM. “While services like concierge, social gathering areas, and VIP arrival lobbies provide luxury resort-like ambience, adding upgrade food courts and entertainment options will be helpful in building mall essence,” he says.
Anantharaman notes that today’s customers are quite aware and they seek convenience and comfort during mall trips. Asserting that at NCM, these elements have been a high priority, he assures: “Race track design vehicular traffic system for convenient Ingress and Egress, grand drop-off points, copious surface and basement parking of over 3,000 vehicles would give visitors a hassle-free shopping experience.” He sums up by saying exhaustive brand mix coupled with zoning will not only provide shoppers an easy access to their brand but also help tenants to reach out to the target clientele and generate higher sales.
For increasing footfalls, the management at NCM has come up with several innovative strategies. Anantharaman shares the USP of the North Country Mall: “We have shuttle bus service between Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali that will help us significantly to draw in more crowds. As we are an anchor-centric mall, the anchor brands have been positioned in the north, east and south entrances to have uniform footfall within the mall. As a customer engagement tactic, we have monthly event calendar whereby different activities are planned for all days of the week, which helps generate excitement from day one of every week. For example, Mondays are branded as fashion Mondays, Tuesdays are for talent workshops, Wednesdays are meant for NCM clinics, and so forth. We also plan to organise big ticket events like musical shows, talent hunts, auto expos, fashion shows, etc. to draw in quality crowd.” Other initiatives include in-mall engaging activations at strategic locations, regular contests for customers to facilitate repeat visits and integrating brands to organise shopping extravaganzas bundled with offers and deals to entice new customers.
Issue of competition
Of late, Chandigarh region has witnessed high retail real estate construction activity. Unnerved by the developments, Anantharaman quips: “In primary catchment area, L&T Elante Mall is the only competitor to the North Country Mall but it is located at a distance of almost 20 km from us. Furthermore, over medium to long term, once residents and end users occupy the upcoming townships in Mohali district, we will be having a different consumer base. As regards rivalry in secondary catchment area, there are no large scale malls proposed in and around Tri-city.” He also observes that of the operational malls – Shalimar at Panchkula, Paras Down Town Square at Zirakpur, Centra Mall and City Emporium at Chandigarh – have not fared well due to limited primary catchment, small development scale, inefficient design and tenant mix whereas North Country Mall is unmatchable on all these counts.
He reiterates that apart from mere tenant mix, NCM has various other differentiating features, such as mall architecture, convenience factors, large anchors, and hospitality focused services with future expansion zones, which are likely to place it much higher than the nearest competitors in times to come.