LuLu Mall, Kochi has remained open for hypermarkets, pharmacies, and essentials from 7 am to 5 pm every day during the lockdown. Along with this restaurant takeaway and delivery services are also open till 8 pm in the night…
Even as the entire shopping mall and retail industry is struggling to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, LuLu Mall Kochi is helping out shoppers of Kerala in a very organised manner as per the government norms and security measure.
As per a Kerala Government’s directive on April 2, 2020, “Central and State Governments have enforced (so many) regulations in the form of ‘Lockdown’ to contain the spread of COVID-19. As per existing instructions shops selling essential items, including take away counters of hotels are allowed to function only 7 am to 5 pm daily.”
The state order further reads: “Now government is pleased to allow the online/at door delivery of food items, including cooked food from take away counters of hotels, up to 8 pm in relaxation of the existing general order. Shops selling essential items including bakeries and counter supply from take away counters of hotels shall stop by 5 pm itself. These shops can operate online delivery till 8 pm. Online suppliers shall stop their operations before 9 pm every day.”
Keeping in mind the directive, LuLu Mall, Kochi has remained open for hypermarkets, pharmacies, and essentials from 7 pm to 5 pm every day during the lockdown. Along with this restaurant takeaway and delivery services are also open till 8 pm in the night.
In an exclusive interaction with Indiaretailing.com, Shibu Philips, Business Head, LuLu Mall explains how his shopping centre is handling the situation in a very constructive and organised manner to aid shoppers, while maintaining social distancing and proper hygiene.
Amidst rigorous lockdown and social distancing orders, tell us how you have managed to keep the mall partially operational?
We are still in Lockdown, but as per the government norms, we were allowed to open essential service stores on a daily basis. LuLu Kochi remained open for hypermarkets, pharmacies, and essentials from 7 am to 5 pm every day during the lockdown. Along with this restaurant takeaway and delivery services are also open till 8 pm in the night. The hypermarket along with the medical stores open at 7 am every day. The bank opens from 10 am to 2 pm in the afternoon. All the customers who are coming to the mall are being advised to enter one person per car and wearing a mask is mandatory.
Is the mall open for only essential services or other services are open too?
We update our social media informing the consumers about the stores which are opened on a daily basis. Apart from the essential services stores, we have mobile and electronic stores open on Sunday. On Monday, spectacles shops are open and on Tuesday and Friday, the bookstores are allowed to stay open. All stores are open as per the direction mentioned by the State Government. Fashion and other retail stores are closed and awaiting orders from the government.
What procedure and security measures are being implemented in making the process safe and secure for the consumers as well as mall employees?
Consumers are advised to enter one person per car and wearing a mask is mandatory. The temperature of each visitor is checked, and they are asked to sanitize their hands both when they enter the mall and before they enter any store. The mandatory social distancing rule is being followed and over-crowding is not being allowed at all. Customers’ touchpoints such as trolleys and cash counter are being regularly sanitized.
Since stores are open on a daily basis, there is quite a bit of consumer interaction in the mall and hence, proper fumigation is done inside when the mall is closed. Every single staff member is properly equipped with safety gear to protect themselves.
How has COVID-19 impacted the shopping mall sector, highlighting LuLu’s perspective?
The shopping mall industry has been severely crippled due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, we refuse to bow to the pandemic and are committed to keeping the mall afloat, while following all safety precautions. While we have borne a loss of roughly Rs 11 crore so far – this includes the shopping malls which are under construction in Lucknow, Bangalore, and Trivandrum for currently there is no work happening at these sites – we have undertaken all efforts to ensure smooth sailing for our retailers. At LuLu Mall Kochi and Y Mall Trishur, we have given one-month rent waiver (for the month of April) to all the operating retailers.
Aside from this, we will need to delay future plans for a few months till the time consumers start feeling safe coming to malls. These months will be filled with worry, but I am confident the shopping centre industry worldwide and in India will take the initiative to ensure customer safety and I am positive our retailer partners will aid us in this journey of recovery.
What kind of support are you seeking from the government – both state and central?
The shopping mall industry is a high cash-led business as most of the malls are budgeted between Rs 1,000-1,500 crore. The sole income of the mall is leasing. As the malls are currently shut down, income has become zero and we are suffering huge losses. Our business generates profit in the long run but getting returns of investments can take around 15 years. We are seeking the government’s help in easing out the pain of the industry. Towards this we have:
- We have written to the local municipalities to give us a rebate with respect to the property tax.
- We have also written to the electricity board to not charge us the fixed charge as the mall is not fully operational.
- We have requested banks to give us moratoriums in respect to the payment for the loans.
- We have also written to the state government and central government with respect to the GST payment, helping us in getting insurance protection for the rental loss suffered by us.
- We have written to RBI for helping us get reduced interest rates for the rentals.
What is the way forward for the Indian shopping centre industry?
The way forward for the industry will be fruitful if the government favours and helps us by allowing us to open malls in a phased manner. All shopping centres in India need to come together and inform the public of various actions taken to ensure that their shopping experience will be safe along with the retail community. We will have to highlight the measures taken to make them feel that the mall is safe. For example: despite footfalls being a happy thing for us, at this moment we are ensuring that large gatherings are not allowed inside malls. Mall management will have to ensure that customers in limited numbers come to shop / eat. Aside from this, we will need to plan crowd control with our retail partners – especially with those brands that attract huge crowds.
We also do not intend to conduct any major events until the situation improves. For now, most activities have shifted online. Currently, we are engaging children who are stuck at home with an interesting online activity. This, I believe, is the way forward for the Indian shopping centre industry.