The swift increase in the number of malls since the early 2000s and the plethora of retail brands entering the market resulted in the birth of brand Propel. The brand firmly believes in creating an impeccable journey for shopping centres in the country – right from conceptualising to executing next-gen projects. To build in cost efficiencies, set benchmarks, clear targets, imbibe best trade practices, exceed industry standards including in thought leadership are some of the key highlights that Propel adds to the profile of shopping centres.
In an exclusive chat with IMAGES Retail, Rehan Huck, Co-Founder & COO, Propel, talks about the brand’s journey, role and importance of a development management brand for shopping malls along with the new norms and changes in the industry in the face of COVID-19.
What are the changes that have been observed over the last decade in the design and architecture of malls?
The last decade has seen a gradual evolution in design and architecture. Mall developers are today fast realizing the importance of engaging an architect of repute and experience and are opting for international firms and architects to work on the mall design. Retailers view the engagement of an international architect as a stepping-stone to a good mall. It is also viewed as proof of ambition and the developer’s commitment to the project. Some aspects which are being worked on are, ‘stacking of malls, traffic planning, arrival experience and façade, sustainability, energy-saving initiatives, vanilla-anchor ratio, common areas and landscaping.
Do you think the current crisis in the wake of the pandemic will play a major role in future mall management and development?
If this new normal becomes normal for the next few years, the future of mall management and development both will undergo a huge transition. Pre-COVID, mall business was transitioning into more of experiential retail and a bulk of the area was being allocated to for entertainment. Going forward, experiential retail, which earlier ranged from 30 to 37 percent of the mall area, will now come under the scanner. If people change the way they dine out and entertain themselves, area location, anchor stacking, and experiential retail will all undergo a major transition. Malls will have to adopt a more ‘High Street outlook’ with more open areas to promote social distancing practices.
How do you see the industry evolving in the new normal?
This pandemic has exposed a lot of market realities. Today each business has to engage actively in better cash management, risk assessments, effective cost cuttings, immaculate revenue programming and value engineering. Liquidity and technology will be a differentiating factor. The pandemic has also pointed us in the direction of effective management of cost centres andcurtailing nonessential expenditures. Under the new norm optimized format sizes, the density of stores, focus on Tier II & III cities and de-risked expansions will come into play.
What in your opinion will be the recovery time for malls?
The recovery time is going to be totally dependent on the vaccine. Once we get it, the recovery process will be visible in the next 12-18 months. In case, the vaccine is not invented, it would then require a long-term change of business strategy for all businesses especially the experiential retail. A macro-level change will be required which means the recovery time will exceed to 3-4 years.