COVID-19 continues to impact economies worldwide, severely hitting businesses and services. As several cities and countries observe absolute lockdown, strong ripple effects are shaking shopping centres across the world. Meanwhile, one of the most successful shopping centres in India, Select CITYWALK, believes that there lies an opportunity in every crisis and is hopeful that the Indian retail sector will embark on a different growth trajectory in the years to come.
Speaking exclusively to Shopping Centre News, Yogeshwar Sharma, CEO & Executive Director, at Select Infrastructure Pvt Ltd talked about how Select CITYWALK is trying to overcome the impact of COVID-19 and a lot more:
What has been the impact of Coronavirus on India’s shopping centre industry?
The impact of COVID-19 is an unprecedented global phenomenon across human lives as well as businesses. While we are in lockdown, it is given that only essential services will work, till we flatten the curve. Shopping centers, which are public spaces, now adhere to government guidelines and are only open for essential services. It will take time for things to normalize and for the public to return to their favorite malls.
Both domestic and global brands may re-strategize their expansion plans, as business will be impacted for a significant part of coming year.
COVID-19 outbreak has added enormous pressure to an already delicately poised Indian retail sector. New completions will be deferred, leasing activity might be delayed, rentals may come under pressure, and vacancies may see a momentary rise and the sector’s overall growth rate will be slowed down.
What steps is Select CITYWALK taking to move ahead of the curve?
The aim is twofold. One to ensure social distancing and safety norms for all visitors, stakeholders and retailers as per government guidelines and to ensure that we work on best practices. The second is to work on a collaborative manner with our retail partners to slowly build up footfalls.
Currently, the safety of the consumers is our paramount concern and we are focusing on that. Select CITYWALK, as a responsible public space will be taking steps for consumer safety and security so that consumers can start venturing out gradually for purchasing necessities.
We also believe that shopping centres have transformed into community centres today, so everyone would like to meet, greet and eat. People post lockdown will again congregate at these centres to satisfy their social needs.
While the business situation may improve in the months to come, the recovery will surely be gradual and not steep, and the entire impact of this pandemic and the likely future growth path can only be assessed once the situation returns to normalcy.
However, there surely lies an opportunity in every crisis and we believe that the Indian retail sector might embark on a different growth trajectory in the years to come with the emergence of businesses with sustainable business models and a strong foothold on technology.
How are you keeping in touch with your consumers?
Our aim is to partner with our retailers on all levels and work as a community to bring the visitors back. Earlier through several mall activities and regular celebrations, we were always in touch with our customers. Post lockdown, this was a challenge, and we never wanted to lose our customers and wanted to keep them engaged. To have the same relation and connection, we started with the campaign #hereforyou.
Select CITYWALK, brings robust and engaging social media content that appeals to all its followers, in the same refreshing format as it’s offline experience has been. The social media content of Select CITYWALK follows the destination’s diverse offerings for the entire family while taking the narrative online. Prepared with intent to help all followers, stay home, stay safe, and stay fit, the content is both engaging and interspersed with tips on navigating life through the lockdown.
Ranging from fitness tips from well-known trainers like Zoe Modgill, and Mallika Dang, to mindfulness exercises from experts like Nitya Shanti, it also traverses fashion, skincare and petcare from experts like Ayesha Amin Nigam among others. Weekends bring ‘lives’ with well-known names like Vesna Jacob, Sunaina Rekhi for fitness, or Simar’s Nail Bar for that perfect weekend indulgence.
The content being shared brings together experts from across many categories, to bring the best across their passion points, learning and joyfulness for the entire family in this period. Bringing together a sense of belonging and community, the social media content moves between short video interactions with experts, as well as live sessions on the weekend. Encouraging all visitors to stay home and stay safe, it is a way for Select CITYWALK to bring the spirit of positivity across.
Additionally, we have recently collaborated with Dr. Dangs Lab, a premium chain of quality diagnostics in Delhi NCR for the initiative of providing drive through testing facilities at Select CITYWALK. This testing will be conducted across testing booths, at the rear side of the centre. The initiative is done, to ensure maximum safety and minimum exposure to both the patient and the medical staff collecting the samples. Only one car can pass through the stretch at a time.
What are the CSR activities taken by the mall during the spread of coronavirus?
The CSR activities undertaken by Select CITYWALK includes:
– Distributed 1,500 PPE kits to Delhi Govt
– Distributed ration and medicines, for 500 inmates of Earth Saviours Foundation, for a month
– Sponsored 500 family kits to SDMC including rations and essentials, which were distributed by them to needy families.
By when do you think the shopping centres will be operating in full swing? What precautionary measures will you be taking after opening the mall?
Right now, it is too soon to tell as to when the shopping centres will be back in full swing, we think it will open gradually phase by phase keeping in mind the safety and security of the customers. As a public space, we will have all the required necessary checks, which will be a must in the initial post lockdown stage such as:
– Compulsory masks for everyone
– Temperature checking at entrances
– Sanitization at all entrances including entrance for goods at the shopping centre
– Sanitization at the entrance of stores
– Social distancing will be maintained
– F&B and cinema to be treated separately as per the new sitting policy
What is the way forward for the Indian shopping centre industry?
COVID-19 has made us all learn many lessons, and we need to adopt changes that will take us to a better world. COVID-19 has exposed the need to allocate resources for future epidemic prevention and create cost-benefit models to evaluate the timing and various types of shutdowns to save lives without excessive economic disruption. Development of new technologies, which will enable manual workers to work, will allow social distancing.
A technological change will be seen in the F&B areas, too, from digitizing the menu and contactless food orders, or even mobile phone menus will enable more space and safety among consumers and restaurant staff.
We also believe that the momentum of digital technology will pave the way to a fast-track construction of a new era of business in almost all public spaces, and this will be one of the biggest wins for all of us as a country too.