In an exclusive interaction with Shopping Centre News Bureau, Sachin Dhanawade, Chief Operating Officer, Retail & Real Estate, Grauer & Weil (India) Limited, which operates Growel’s 1O1 Mall, spoke about shopping centres in COVID-19 times, while elaborating on the measures taken by the mall to make it customer-safe post the lockdown period.
What are retailers and shopping centre developers doing to stave off the ill effects of the pandemic and reassure consumers?
It is extremely crucial for retailers and malls to reassure consumers that the controlled environment at a mall will be the safest place to go for shopping, eating and entertainment options. The industry has come together to spell out guidelines that cover every aspect of retailing to ensure safety is at prime.
Malls are better equipped to enable and ensure a safe environment by enhancing the already existing standards of hygiene and mandating social distancing norms for consumers and monitoring that these are being followed strictly.
We at Growel’s 101 are fully geared up to reopen the mall with highest possible standards around COVID-19 precautionary measures and have aligned our retailers as well on operating manual/ guidelines to adjust to the ‘new normal’.
Will you shift to a revenue-sharing model with your tenants? Will you consider rental waivers for a few months?
Given the lockdown situation, tenants are negotiating on various rental models, however it is imperative to evaluate the situation at both the ends as both the parties are sailing through a similar situation. At this point, it is critical that the situation is analyzed prudently and an appropriate resolution to tackle cash flow situation at both the ends can be made to ensure that it is a win-win situation for both the stakeholders in the business. While various representing bodies have filed petitions with the Government of India, representing their respective industries, it will be interesting to wait and see the kind of support that is extended to bring back businesses to normalcy at the soonest possible.
How are you dealing with retailers for CAM, electricity, and other maintenance bills?
CAM (Common area maintenance charges) is always billed on actuals to our tenants. In the lockdown situation, we have re-worked quite efficiently on all our expenses and have managed to bring down the costs substantially without compromising the basic hygiene and safety of the mall during the lockdown as well. We have a sixmonthly reconciliation cycle for CAM expenses and the benefits on reduced CAM charges would be passed on to the tenants.
How are you dealing with the LRD, loans, and the EMI situation from the mall developers’ end?
This is a challenging and similar situation for not only us but most shopping mall developers. If there is no revenue or rentals, the mall developers will have to face lots of strain from the bank for their EMIs and loans.
With the current position of retail real estate, it will be difficult to generate the necessary revenue if we consider the requests on rental waiver or a pure revenue share rental model. Hence it is critical that the tenants as well as the mall owners look at the current situation from both ends and plan their discussions appropriately.
As malls are completely shut and there is no revenue, how are you coping up with the mandatory municipal property tax, electricity board monthly fixed charge, GST payments and interest rates?
Presently these charges are applicable/payable and there is no relief for now. However, SCAI (Shopping Centres Association of India) has filed petitions to various governing/concerned bodies to extend relief and support the industry come out of these difficult times.
What kind of support are you seeking from the government in this situation?
Shopping Centre industry is the catalyst of organised retail and a major contributor to the success of Entertainment, Fashion, Cinema, F&B, Electronics, FMCG and many other drivers of the economy. It is estimated to contribute Rs 31,500 crore of the
net GST collections countrywide. While various representing bodies like SCAI, RAI, NRAI have made representations to the Government of India, asking for what is critical for survival, revival and rebooting for their respective industries. There is an urgent requirement of handholding in the form of financial support for around 6-9 months to emerge from the crisis.
Listed below are some of the representations done by SCAI (Shopping Centres Association of India) on behalf of its Shopping Centre members for Government/ Concerned bodies attention and immediate support:
– Relaxation on payment of electricity charges, No fixed Electricity Charges till the economy opens up and 50 percent waiver of actual consumption charges for 6 months starting April, 2020
– They have urged to Financial Institutions to consider a moratorium period in repayment of bank loans, interest, EMI, etc. without levy of any penalties/ penal interest, plus. The moratorium offered should be extended till 31 March 2021 at the minimum
– A one-time loan restructuring with lower rates of interest be permitted for shopping centres (Organised Retail)
– A facilitative and forwardlooking support provision of short-term financing options for a period of 6 to 12 months, at lower interest rates to meet the increased working capital requirements
– Not classifying such stressed accounts of Shopping Centres as NPA till the end of current financial year
– Allow our appeal that GST rebates should be granted to offset the losses on account of and for the period of closure of business
– Permit flexibility in deposit of GST as that needs to be deposited immediately upon raising of invoice, while corresponding payments are likely to be much delayed and shall further result in an adverse cash flow on shopping centres
– While applauding that RBI’s measures to effectively reduce the interest rates to 9 percent, it is requested, that interest rates be brought down at 5-6 percent in view of the precarious financial situation.