Home Mall Talks FECs: Helping malls transform from mere shopping centres into socialscapes

FECs: Helping malls transform from mere shopping centres into socialscapes


Shopping centres are traditional destinations for families. Such is the growing mall culture in India that 34 new shopping malls, covering 13.6 million sq. ft. area, are expected to come up in top eight cities by the year 2020. But keeping a mall alive is no piece of cake. Retail by itself appears to no longer suffice as a draw for leisure experiences.

Yes, families still come to traditional shopping centers to buy what they need, but new entertainment destinations such as urban entertainment centres and location-based entertainment centres are appearing, many with retail as a significant part of their mix. Raking in the footfalls takes a lot of effort, a smooth process, keen management skills and above all, a deep understanding of consumers.

Several new malls have been constructed around the country, with substantial square footage allocated to Family Entertainment Centres (FECs).

Maximising on digital technology, malls are enhancing customer engagement to stimulate footfalls besides boosting sales as these factors form a vital aspect of their business strategy. They are providing customers with a wide array of national and global brands, besides enabling them to enjoy with their loved ones.

There are malls offering over-the-top features including indoor ski areas, indoor theme parks, water parks, zoos, science centres, shooting ranges and even an underground shark tunnel. They are moving towards play zones, amusements park themes, rides and engaging events, like celebrations, special campaigns, shows, summer workshops music concerts etc. The FEC concept which petered down from the US to India now is the mainstay of the shopping mall industry.

These substantially extend a mall’s draw, lengthen shopper stay and even increase revenue for other tenants. Even Tier II malls are not far behind, creating spaces to bring in more entertainment players.

The Concept Says It All

Shopping Centre News spoke with the mall developers, mall owners and industry experts on this new trend this is what theyhad to say:

Shibu Philips, Business Head, LuLu Mall: “A vibrant FEC zone is a must for any mall. With increased online shopping, the focus is shifting from ‘shopping’ destinations to a more wholesome approach, giving more importance to food and entertainment – creating community spaces. Having realised this, malls today are dedicating around 30-35 percent of the GLA to F&B and entertainment. Earlier, FECs were planned and built only for toddlers and children. India today has a brand awareness, techsavvy millennial population with increasing disposable income.

Providing exciting entertainment options to them is equally important in order to drive footfalls. So, malls should now focus on building FEC spaces that cater to kids, teenagers and young adults alike.”

Mukesh Kumar, CEO, Infiniti Malls: “FECs are gaining significant popularity and can be seen mushrooming in malls across the country. The mall culture in India has evolved and shopping is now becoming a family affair. Thus, parents seek exciting yet safe, fun and wholesome activities for their children which can be provided via FECs. Additionally, as these centres are indoors, they can operate 365 days of the year and are temperate controlled and add a lot of value. As a result of these, the footfalls in the malls also see a tremendous spike and FECs will surely play a key role in the success of any mall.”

Manoj K Agarwal, CEO, Viviana Mall: “The mall culture has been prevalent in India for just about two decades now. Having said that in these two decades the entire industry has survived a lot. While 2007-2008 saw a surge in the number of malls, the onset of recession did impact the mall and retail sector in early 2008. Only the players who understood that malls need to graduate from just being a shopping centre to an experience zone survived the test of time.

This was a key factor which made FECs play a significant role in revolutionising the Indian mallscape. A combination of digitisation, rapid urbanisation, rise in disposable incomes and changes in the lifestyle of the middle-class and the malls understanding their existence was more as providers of experiences that went beyond just shopping, made malls successful today.

We at Viviana, gauged this trend through in-depth market research and launched itself with ample amount of options in its Fun and Entertainment formats. Thus, making Viviana a destinationmall in the true sense.

Munish Khanna, CRO, Express Avenue Mall: “Malls in India are undergoing a natural evolution. Food and entertainment are the new anchors of the mall. In this experience economy, there is a huge emphasis given by the shoppers on experiences vs accumulating stuff in food and entertainment fit aptly. Entertainment allows the families to invest quality time with their children in varied forms of FEC which have come up in malls. Teenagers and adults alike are exploring different entertainment options other than the usual movie watching.”

Gopal Machani, JMD, MG Group: “This concept of FECs is a welcome change in the industry according to current circumstances and changing customer interests. The customer does not fi nd any reason to step again and again in the same mall only for shopping.

While customers can rely on e-commerce for all other needs, entertainment cannot be fulfilled by e-commerce. Converting a mall into an FEC dominated zone can make a substantial direction change for any shopping centre. Malls with strong FEC zones usethis to their advantage.”

Arjun Gehlot, Director, Ambience Mall, Gurgaon & Vasant Kunj: “Malls have evolved a lot in the past decade.

They have come a long way and have become more of a community and cultural melting pot. Services offered by malls are the key distinguishing features now. The design philosophy has changed, the brand mix has evolved dramatically, and a lot of attention is being paid to F&B and entertainment concepts. It has been a learning experience for FECs as well. Indian FECs are up t international standards today. India is being treated at par with international markets like Dubai, Singapore, etc. and is ranked higher in service provider priorities now.”

Mahesh M, CEO, Creaticity: “Malls are no more looked at as only a place to purchase goods and services. Modern malls have evolved over the last few years beyond that. No one can imagine an urban space without such social spaces. A space where one can come and immerse into various activities like shopping, entertainment, dining or just a social outing with friends and family under one roof. For Creaticity, family entertainment is no longer the usual mix of restaurants and slot machine zones. We firmly believe that a mall needs to transform into a socialscape – a place to gather, a place to converse, a place to explore and experience new things. By combining this consumer journey with visual and smart-tech cues like architectural, technological and retail mix innovations, we can help to make this experience of discovery even better and engaging. FECs have usually seen a footfall drivers to a mall, we view our off erings on this front as FF+. The plus is the diff erentiated consumer experience that generates positive word of mouth and repeat visits to our campus.”

Naviin Ibhrampurkar, Head- Marketing and Corporate Communications, Inorbit Mall: Today malls are no longer restricted to shopping. Malls have evolved as social places where people come to relax and unwind amidst their busy lives.
Considering the diverse interests of customers and elements related to entertainment gaining popularity, a mall has to offer much more than shopping. It is all about exceeding consumer expectations by offering them exciting experiences that bring them back to the mall.”

Anuj Arora, GM, Oberoi Mall: “A visit to the mall is generally associated with leisure; and off ering a complete experience with a combination of shopping, dining and entertainment is what makes a mall attractive. In space-starved metropolitan cities, malls off er not just cinemas for entertainment but also gaming zones, family entertainment centres and recreation options that target all age groups. Most footfalls (new and repeat) consider malls to be a place where they can come to socialize, enjoy and rejuvenate. Hence, entertainment as a category is essential for any mall if it wants to stay relevant in today’s times.”

The Race to Be the Most Popular

Mall developers are formulating new and modern strategies and tactics to keep up with changing consumer dynamics and accordingly provide the best for their users. Shopping centres across the globe are focusing on prime entertainment, the whole agenda of the FEC to pull in crowds and make the shopping mall popular among the customers. The race to survival and success is very intense.

“Infiniti Mall strives to offer an unmatched experience to guests and has a large dedicated space to the Family Entertainment Centre.

The mall has recently added several new rides and games which will keep children engaged and happy,” says Kumar.

“Since our mall’s launch, it has relied on FECs by ensuring the continuous buzz in the mall through ongoing events. The newly-added kids zone at has given good results and pushed many customers towards the mall. Our USP is that we have introduced several events which the city has never seen before. We also pride ourselves on conducting situation-based events to meet customer sentiments and ultra-modern events mixed with local flavour to ensure that we gain all sets of footfalls. We also promote all our events heavily, on all mediums,” says Machani.

“Inorbit Malad is one of the popular players in the FEC category. We have revamped and relaunched #NEXTGENTIMEZONE at Inorbit mall. #NEXTGENTIMEZONE caters to people of all age groups and has introduced some latest assortment of games that have been brought to Mumbai for the first time,” states Ibhrampurkar.

“FECs have been part of our mall culture since we opened doors to consumers in 2013. At Viviana, we have achieved steadily increasing footfalls, shopping spends and overall retail turnover. Having FEC options in the mall has only enhanced and contributed to our growing brand value. One of the USPs is that Viviana Mall always aims to change with the changing times and the team feels that the old should always be replaced with new upgraded versions.

In keeping with this belief, we have recently got our FEC totally renovated and have added a number of new rides. These help us give our customers the very best in customer engagement and value and give them an amusement park-type experience.
This, in turn, has increased our footfalls and sales which has led to organic growth for us as a whole,” explains Agarwal.

“Ambience has varied FEC concepts like Fun City and Smaaash. Both outlets are market leaders in their own segment and both are dedicated towards providing a fantastic experience to their customers. Kids can enjoy and have gala time at Fun City, the play zone, which offers latest technology and rides to them. Smaaash at both of our malls (Ambience Mall Gurgaon and Vasant Kunj) offers one of the largest bowling alleys. I would say our speed to understand, adapt and deliver according to customer’s expectations is our USP. The only way to cope up with the competition is being relevant and focused to the patron’s needs and continue being in touch with them through different mediums,” explains Gehlot.

“At Creaticity, unlike most malls, we have two mini-cities, the Foodcity and the Playcity. As the names suggest, Foodcity is over 27 cuisines and a dozen restaurants that combine beautiful indoor/outdoor ambience, while Playcity is about group gaming options (turfcricket, futsal etc. for friends, families and pros) and an all-age trampoline park that liberates the child in you. Our context of engaging customers through FECs is diff erent from that of a general mall. We are a space that believes in ‘Co-Creation and Creative expression’ in this ecosystem that builds communities together.

For instance, we have brought in two exciting formats in sportstainment – Tigerplay and SkyJumper. This differentiator refl ects on the footfalls that the venues attract. Consumers are spoilt for choice, but they seek out liberating experiences, be it food, dining or playing, and hence it is our job to keep creating newer forms of experiential entertainment and engagement,” states Mahesh M.

Major Attractions

LuLu has one of the largest FEC zones in the country. It is equipped with the latest video games, roller coasters, carousels and bumper cars, toddlers’ play area, a 12-lane bowling alley, a world class 5D cinema experience, south India’s largest ice skating rink and a host of other children’s rides and video arcades. Constant innovations in technological amusements are ensured to off er a wider variety of gaming options for customers, make sure they are not easily bored. Last year, the mall opened a 5,000 sq. ft. trampoline park which is currently a favourite among fun loving and fitness conscious youth. For children and youngsters, they have added a number of high energy Virtual Reality games, which take up less space, but provide an excellent experience.

Viviana’s FEC offering is in the form a 30,000 sq. ft. space with Cinepolis, being their star attraction. Cinepolis has 14 Screens including a 4-Screen VIP section offering recliner seats, butler service and an exclusive dining menu offering a wide array of scrumptious dishes.

The traditional section has 10 screens offering a excellent range of movies to view including 3 special screens which provide I-max, 4DX and Atmos formats alongwith a fresh newly designed food and beverage menu thus off ering our customers a 360-degree entertainment experience. This has helped in making them a key player in mall on a pan India basis that offers unique recreation options thus diff erentiating Viviana from other malls in the country.

This combined with a 30,000 sq. ft. FEC in the mall has made Viviana a heavily popular mall amongst all our customers across Mumbai. Fun City has been with Viviana since its inception in 2015, giving customers a wide range of rides to choose from. They also have VR based gaming options and some superb amusement park themed rides that add to the thrill for customers.

“This is the kind of experience we have in mind when we curate our events and our FEC zones for our customers. We want them to get good value for their time and money and make sure when they think leisure time with family, they come to Viviana,” says Agarwal.

Infiniti mall has Fun City, which spans across 50000 sq.ft. approximately. Apart from this, it is the only mall in India to have a 360-degree indoor roller coaster. It has added multiple games along with happy and joy rides in Fun City in 2019 and also has a multiplex with 5 screens for a great move experience. Inorbit Malad has Inox, which has enhanced the cinematic experience by introducing LED-theatre screen ONYX, IMAX, 4DX, Kiddles etc. The #NEXTGENTIMEZONE has elements which focuses on young adults along with kids and families. The store layout and design has transformed from a playful and colourful store.
It has been given more of an urbane and futuristic look. Lit signages for major concept zones and unique sky grid lighting in the store, enhances the entire layout. New games which have been added include Krazee whirl – unlike other bumper cars, Krazee has a dual joystick with attractive LED illumination at the base of the cars. Some of the other new games like Virtual Rabbit, Willy Wonka, Family Bowling are extremely addictive and appeal to every age group.

To keep pace with customers’ evolving tastes in lifestyle and F&B, Inorbit also launched over 24 new brands in Vashi and some leading international brands such as Forever 21, American Eagle, Superdry and many more in Hyderabad.

South India is being driven by the film industry and keeping that in mind, Felicity has Satyam in their fold. A dedicated gaming zone on the fifth floor was completely modifi ed with new entertainment, added VR Games, loaded with offers on games.
Overall 35 percent of the mall operational space is dedicated to the FEC section. Express Avenue dedicates 13-16 percent of the space to FEC. The key highlights are a state of the art Multiplex Escape, Fun City, VR/AR games and experiences, Snow World, Cricket, Futsal, Jungle Safari and Dialogue in the Dark.

Around 20 percent of the area is dedicated to FEC concepts at the mall and there is a plan to increase this percentage in the future. The key entertainment highlights include the rides at Fun City (especially those which were launched simultaneously in India and other markets at the same time).

“It’s hard to come by dedicated FEC players in the market and being a capital intensive segment there are very few players who are truly focused on customers and their needs and are in it for the long run. We are currently working with market leaders and share a decade long strong relationship with them. They renovate the outlets on regular basis, thus, keeping themselves and us at the top of the game,” says Gehlot.

Creaticity has innovative formats like Tiger Play, SkyJumper and SLATE (a children’s enrichment center), which are all part of Playcity and Event City with over 11 event venues including a state of the art 700 seater open amphitheatre which hosts national and international programs cutting across music, theatre, art and dance forms. The idea lies in bringing diff erentiated entertainment in the 10 percent of space the has mall dedicated to such concepts. While Tigerplay is an outdoor turf that hosts group gaming sports like Futsal and Cricket,Skyjumper is Pune’s largest Trampoline Park spread over 12,000 sq. ft. of space and attracts not only children but adults too.

Oberoi has NAMCO, the first of its kind in India, which provides a fun-filled entertainment zone for kids and adults alike. Built to Japanese standards of safety and peace of mind, the vibrant facility is designed around 3D TV animation Pac-Man, Ghostly Adventures and Star Wars themes. The centre off ers largescale children’s play equipment and one of India’s largest redemption zones. They also have a state-of-the-art Multiplex PVR ICON where movie enthusiasts get to experience the one of a kind P[XL] screen with dolby atmos moving sound technology, dual 4k projections and customised 4D glasses. PVR ICON also houses a unique kids off ering, Playhouse, an exclusive one-of-a-kind movie experience in Mumbai made for both kids and adults who wish to keep their inner child alive. With its vibrant ambiance, colourful décor and seating and an in-slide, Playhouse is a huge hit amongst our younger patrons and parent who want their kids productively engaged while they watch a movie. Apart from these, Oberoi Mall hosts various activities, meet-and-greet, events from time to time around the year to keep engaging with its patrons. Case in point being the Summer Escape 10 toons 10 weeks marathon currently being hosted at Oberoi Mall where kids would get to meet 10 diff erent highly popular toons every weekend.

Personalisation & Customer Centricity

“The customer is the sun in our figurative universe. Everything revolves around their needs and all our efforts are focused towards meeting their expectations to the best of our abilities. The only thing that distinguishes a mall from an online market place is the experience that we off er that help in satisfying all the fi ve senses of our patrons. They can see, touch, feel, hear and smell the ambiance of the mall and the FEC’s and that is what makes or breaks their experience. Personalisation is the next step. We have to curate specifi c experiences for every customer and strive to attend all their personal needs. For example, we provide power banks free of charge to customers inside the mall, they have home delivery of goods to their homes, gift wrapping, free Wi-Fi etc. These are small activities and facilities but they enhance the customer’s experience and make his/her visit a memorable one. We intend to simplify their visit to the mall and make a hassle-free environment for them to shop in,” says Gehlot.

“For Infiniti, customer centricity is of paramount importance. They do not come only to buy products but also because of the human touch and feel and all-round experience,” states Kumar.
Shibu Philips adds a technical angle to it, saying, “In order to ensure the right experience is created for the customer, the general preferences of the targeted age groups must be analysed and teamed with the supporting, latest technology.”

“In recent years, e-commerce has reshaped the marketplace – from eliminating the need for long lines to buying things online without stepping out of the house. But many customers still prefer going to the physical stores because of the touch and feel factor that the online market lacks. Customers not only want to experience the commodity or product before purchasing but also want to see for themselves how a particular looks on them.

In addition they also want to develop their relationship with the retail outlet as they get a feeling of instant gratification. In order to provide our customers with this feeling of gratification, Viviana Mall has always kept customer centricity as its core value. This is refl ected through all the activities that the mall undertakes and is one of the important reasons for launching our very own Loyalty programme – The V Club,” says Manoj K Agarwal.

“Marking the 5th anniversary last year, we launched five new services such as Priority Lounge for senior citizens and loyal customers, Golf Cart service for pick up and drop from parking lobby to the mall, The V Club -Mall Loyalty Program, Sanitary Pad Dispensers, and Electronic Wheelchairs. With these 5 great additions to our already existing wide range of services, we aim to provide the customers with an experience which is beyond the traditional shopping experience.

Each day for us is a celebration and hence we have different days like Monday Mania, Tuesday Treats (special F&B offers), Women Wednesdays (a packaged offer bundle for women across retail stores and services). Along with this we also host musical evenings, birthday packages, food festival, IPL screenings, pub-crawl, and chai-pakoda fest, dog show, wedding promotions and a super-duper Women’s Day celebration. These enhance customer experiences and keep them consistently engaged which is our ultimate aim at Viviana,” he adds.

In order to provide a personalised and authentic shopping experience, Viviana studied and understood customer needs, focused service requirements and other lifestyle factors. This prompted the mall management to extend its services to the visually impaired and specially-abled people as well. Other than being the only mall in the country to be visually impaired friendly, Viviana prides itself on being the first Indian mall to launch an audio-tactile labelling system and Braille menu cards at all restaurants and outlets of the mall.

“Along with this we also provide electronic wheelchairs for our differently-abled customers, special services for the senior citizens and the expectant mothers,” Agarwal states.

“Shopping centres are known to create sharable experiences. It not only gives customers the ability to touch and feel products but also offers exciting entertainment and dining experience. Inorbit works towards offering its shoppers the best visual experience when it comes to festivals and special occasions. The larger than life décor, exciting offers and some exceptional installations creates excitement. Experiential marketing is a strong factor that entices consumers and gives them a superior shopping experience. It is medium through which the mall establishes personal connection between the brand and the consumer. Throughout the year Inorbit stays connected with its consumers through some unique mix of events and activities,” explains Ibhrampurkar.

At Creaticity, creativity makes life worth living and sharing. This belief has been adopted in everything that we do at the campus. We have brought in personalisation to the next level of customer experience by offering personal curated trails to the customers who step into our campus. We have trained Service Scouts who help the consumers by advising on products, their USP and if need be, even take them on a personalised tour from store to store, finally handing them over to the store sales team and briefing them about the customer’s requirement. We have also built the Creaticity App which informs, involves and engages a customer with information on brands, product catalogues and facilities to choose them from and call the respective stores directly. The app also guides consumers to the store through its navigation feature capture from interactive kiosks placed at the campus in various locations. By the loyalty program, the consumer can decide where to redeem the points that he has collected. The app also allows him to save his documents like invoices or warranty cards on the app’s Safety Locker Feature. We make the consumers feel that they have come to the right place to make a smart decision,” says Mahesh M.

Revenue & Footfalls

“Since inception, Viviana Mall has been recording a double-digit growth YOY when it comes to footfalls, trading and revenues.
The primary factor contributing towards this is the in-depth research that went into before launching of the mall. Based on which we were able to find the right tenant mix, enabling the inclusion of an FEC zone offering unmatched experiences. So, from the very start, we did understand the significance of having an elaborate offering through FEC, which clearly reflects in our numbers. Further to this, we also observed that only 52 percent of our customers belonged to Thane. The rest are from Navi Mumbai, Mumbai and even cities like Pune, Satara and Nashik, who are drawn by the wide range of offerings at Viviana Mall,” says Agarwal.

“For Ambience, the revenue generated by FEC is in sync with the proportion of area that they occupy in a mall and as per our communication with our FEC operators, they are witnessing good growth in revenue terms. They have particularly noticed that the customer is responding very positively to the new changes that they are implementing.

In both our malls, FECs were made an integral part since the beginning. For example, Fun City has been in our malls since the inception of the malls and have played a vital role in our success.
However, any improvement that they implement does have a direct positive correlation with footfall. But yes, we have seen a jump of 30 percent footfalls in the FEC’s after they implement new attractions,” adds Gehlot.

“Entertainment as a category is an important contributor to mall business. It also is a crowd puller during the festive season because of big banner movies and during vacations because of the attractive offers inside gaming zones – like the Triple Dollar Off er during Christmas at Timezone which has proved to be a successful year on year. The latest games and movies help us add footfalls by giving people another reason to visit the mall for a greater length of time with friends and family. During the festive season/ school holiday season, we see a spike at the gaming centre in the mall,” adds Ibhrampurkar.

For Infiniti, the FEC & entertainment contributes almost 8 percent of the total revenue generated by the mall and it has seen growth YoY. For Felicity, 30 percent of the mall revenue is generated by FEC. The mall has also grown strong in terms of footfall and turnovers. During the month of April, it posted double-digit growth compared to previous in both footfall and revenue. For Oberoi mall, the entertainment category contributes nearly 10 percent to 15 percent of the total mall sales.

Malls & FEC Players: A Two-Way Relationship

Shopping malls and FEC players have a two-way relationship. While the FEC generates a significant amount of revenue and footfalls, shopping malls also need take care of them properly. Special attention and care is given to the FEC players. Marketing campaigns, social media attractions, events are conducted as FEC players add brand value to the malls.

“Viviana Mall supports its FEC partners first with branding associations. Many brands have sponsored events in the FEC’s for children as well as for adults. We also organise various PR activities for FEC zones from time to time to promote rides, arcade games and other entertainment categories. This has also helped increase footfalls in the mall. We also in corporate them in mall activities and events during festivals and special seasons. The mall does tie-ups with them or gives them location as support during mall events. Participating brands also help us in our events by providing gifts/vouchers during such events to our customers. We also promote special offers and packages for our FEC’s from time to time. Due to these ongoing activities, our FEC brands are popular among our customers,” explains Agarwal.

“We work closely with the FEC team and try fulfilling their requests to the best of our capabilities. We give them enough comfort to keep on renovating regularly, in order to provide the best experience to customers and not worry about the mall being a landlord. Our marketing and promotional activities are in sync and whatever activities are planned is focused towards getting them the maximum benefit,” says Gehlot.

“Infiniti provides branding to FEC Brands on FOC basis. If we receive a group booking at Fun City, a section is reserved for them at the food court. FECs help in increasing and retaining footfalls at malls and increase the number of hours guests spend in the mall,” says Kumar.

“As a reflection of our core value of collaboration, Creaticity promotes the brand partners as a part of the destination to help build exposure for the brands among the target group that we serve. We spend time with them to understand their insights and tailor our marketing efforts for more effective results. Equally, the brands themselves conduct marketing activities to promote their presence and offerings at Creaticity. The value we bring to the table is a combination of our efforts based on consumer feedback and insights,” concludes Mahesh M.