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Are retail and entertainment beyond separation?

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From shopping destinations to entertainment centres and food destinations, shopping malls across the world are being looked upon as one stop destinations for a day’s outing. And this holds especially true in India.
No mall today can afford to stand tall with just a bouquet of brands. Shopping, food and entertainment go hand-in-hand and perhaps that is making malls pull up their socks and offer the best from all three worlds.
The Changing Dynamics
Vice President, Infiniti Malls, Mukesh Kumar says that today the customer and their lifestyles have changed, and with that, shopping centres are changing in a bid to continue to attract consumers.
“Entertainment centres, entertainment and destination venues, once of little significance to shopping centres and malls, are now growing in importance as an essential part of the mix in order to attract today’s consumer. Malls and lifestyle centres now offer a fun and a social experience. Today, shopping centres are in the out-of-home entertainment and dining business as much as they are in the retail goods business,” says he.
Director, Ambience Mall – Gurgaon and Vasant Kunj, Arjun Gehlot adds, “The line between what is known as leisure or recreational activity and entertainment activity has blurred to the extent that the two terms can and is often being used interchangeably. This may be attributable in part to the vanishing urban space for leisure and also the massive growth and development in the entertainment industry.”
With children having maximum say in the shopping decisions of their parents and also children today decide on how best the leisure time of the family has to be spent, it is important and imperative for malls to be children-friendly.
Mall Head, Growel’s 101 Mall, Vikas Shetty aptly points out, “Shopping centres are gradually shifting from just being an entertainment hub to centres where everyone can learn and have fun at the same time especially for activities involving children.”
On the changing dynamics, he shares, “For shopping centres combining leisure and learning has become more profitable considering different reasons for customers to visit the center. The rapid expansion and popularity of themed restaurants / destinations like the Rainforest and Snow World and edutainment Centers like Kidzania shows shoppers want leisure destinations where entertainment is fused with education. Shopping centers have started adding carousels, trackless trains, buses, fire engines, family entertainment centers and free children’s play on and above traditional entertainment options like cinemas and arcades.”
Shetty further shares how shopping centers have evolved from arcade games to FEC’s of 10,000 sq.ft. maximum which will further get evolved to bigger FEC’s of 30,000 sq.ft. He points out how shopping centers have started allocating 25 to 30 per cent of GLA for entertainment and leisure, earlier which was half the area. Talking about the interest of international gaming giants/ leisure acvity centres, Shetty says, “International player Namco Amusement Park Company has already made their presence in the country. Soon we will have some more bigger operators showing their interest.”
CEO ISHANYA and Housl!fe, Mahesh M suggests that consumers have always been looking for an experience that is world class and brings in the element of ‘me-me’, premiumness yet affordable, socializing and conversational / engaging. That is what the malls and shopping destinations now try to fulfill.
President (West), The Phoenix Mills Limited, Rajendra Kalkar encapsulates the changing dynamics of malls and shopping centres in India with reference to the growing importance of leisure, entertainment and food saying, “Retail-tainment is the new concept of adding entertainment and experiences to the retail mix. The trend took shape a few years ago but has accelerated in the last one year. Shoppers crave for a physical place to congregate, connect and engage. And malls are fulfilling a big part of that need. Malls are no longer just a place to shop, but are becoming key activity centres, elevating their purpose beyond simply offering an outlet to pick up a new blouse.”
Reiterating this, CEO West Pioneer Properties (India) Pvt. Ltd., Gaurang Agrawal says, “Retail-tainment is the next big thing for shopping malls. This concept of adding entertainment and leisure to the retail mix has been accelerating over the last few years with the mushrooming of e-commerce and mall developers trying to look for innovative ways to attract customers. Malls are now the heart and soul of communities, foundation of retail economies and a social hub for people. With the rapid e-commerce penetration in India, the customers are visiting malls for an overall experience.”
He further adds, “The last one year what we have really witnessed is the decline of traditional shopping mall and the evolution of experiential shopping and social hub. With the rise of e-commerce and millennial spender and the shift in consumer shopping habits, developers are focusing on innovative entertainment and leisure options to attract the ever changing and demanding customers.”
Taking The Lead
To talk about a few niche activities undertaken by malls in 2016, Inorbit Mall hosted the second edition of Baccha Bollywood – a one of its kind film making workshop where kids could learn various aspects of film making right from acting to directing.
Associate Vice President – Marketing and Corporate Communications, Puneet Varma says, “The mall hosted Baccha Bollywood across five locations i.e. Malad, Vashi, Bangalore, Vadodara and Hyderabad. The 2016 edition was well received with a massive response of approximately 600 kids who participated in the film making workshops. International Clown Festival was also a huge hit among people of all age groups. The festival took place across Malad, Vashi, Bangalore, Vadodara and Hyderabad. The Festival had performances by international clowns and exclusive workshops on juggling and balloon art. The Malad Mall also recently hosted an event where WWE superstar Shaemus and Bollywood action heartthrob John Abraham came down for a meet and greet with their fans.”
Ambience Mall had a host of activities that included – We Love Summer, Unity in Diversity through Handloom dresses – Republic Day, Auction for Republic Day handloom dresses (CSR Activity with Smile foundation), Indian Science Festival, 9 faces of Maa Durga with sand art from Gujarat, Ambience Fashion Week etc.
The Logistics
The expertise of a mall is to provide a good and fulfilling experience to their patrons. The mall developer may or may not have the expertise in all that a mall is expected to do and most often we have malls outsourcing their leisure activities to agencies. This is a good idea for a number of reasons. One, it saves time for the in-house team to strategise better on other things and secondly because it brings in new ideas and breaks the monotony.
Gehlot talks about the plan of action put in place at Ambience Mall. He shares, “Our mall activities are undertaken with a mix or in-house and outsourced talents. We do have a dedicated and capable in-house team planning and executing all our activities. It is only when a planned activity requires a specialized skill set, we look at outsourcing.”
At Infiniti too, according to Kumar, various agencies were involved in executing the different events.
At Growel’s 101, Shetty shares, “Brainchild is ours. Execution is outsourced.”
At Inorbit too the execution is outsourced. Varma shares, “We conceptualize most of our marketing activities in-house and then align the brief with different partners/event agencies to make the event grander and more experiential for our customers.”
Kalkar shares the strategy in place at Phoenix, “We do not really outsource but seek like-minded partners who are leaders in their domains and can bring to the table unique events. We work with these partners very closely through the entire journey of the event right from co-creation till execution, promotions et al. Some of our key partner events are The Farmers Market, Flea Markets, Auto Circuit, Desert Garden Festival, Food Truck Square etc.”
At Ishanya, according to Mahesh, “We have an in-house events team that is involved in creating the annual entertainment calendar of events and activities. As highlighted earlier, we host various art and culture events under the banner of ‘Ishanya Art and Culture Club’. We also collaborate with our brand partners like blueFROG or XLR8 for several unique events which are eventually hosted in the various event venues that we offer- both indoor and outdoor, including a fully equipped amphitheater.”
At the West Pioneer Properties (India) Pvt. Ltd., the events calendar for the year is prepared which according to Agrawal is done with lot of brainstorming within their in-house team and long-term creative partners.
He shares, “Usually all our large scale events are done in partnership with our long-term creative partners who not only help us with conceptualization but also with the successful execution of the same. Our regular activities are mostly implemented by our in-house team.”
From Across The World
Gehlot talks about an international mall that he admires, “The Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall has apart from 1,200 stores and over 200 restaurants, a world class aquarium and underwater zoo that features a 270-degree walk through tunnel, an indoor theme park, and also an Olympic size ice rink setting the benchmark for malls as an integrated retail and entertainment destination.”
Dubai Mall happens to be in the list of favourites for Shetty as well.
For Mahesh it is the Oak Brook Centre, Chicago. He shares, “This place has a lot of indoor and outdoor spaces and reminds us a lot of our spaces and ambience, similar to Ishanya, obviously much larger in size, with brands in fashion, food and entertainment. One can witness shopping, food, leisure and a complete family destination there.”
Agrawal admires the West Edmonton Mall which is one of the oldest malls in the world. He shares, “It is amazing how this mall has been continuously re-inventing itself. Besides the over 800 stores to choose from, including European, New Orleans and Chinatown-themed areas, it offers thrilling experiences varying from 3D Funhouse and Haunted Castle (both sit beneath the world’s largest indoor triple-loop roller coaster, which sits inside Galaxyland, the second largest indoor amusement park in the world), 18-hole mini gold course, World Waterpark (which is the world’s largest indoor waterpark) to Sea Life Caverns (wherein you can pet one of the sea lions). It is truly an example of experiential destination mall.”

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