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‘Shopping Centres Next’ kicks off to a packed house with powerful masterclasses and discussions

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India’s shopping centre industry celebrated a triumphant return to the first on-ground mega industry gathering in over 18 months at the Shopping Centres Next in association with Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI) and powered by Bestseller India event at the Grand Hyatt, Goa on September 1-2, 2021.

Marking a tremendously positive resurgence from the challenges of the past year, Shopping Centres Next 2021 in association with Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI) and powered by Bestseller India organised and hosted by IMAGES Group and themed on ‘Creating India’s Next-generation Social Spaces’, reflecting the innovations that developers and retailers must embark upon to reinstate unique visitor lifestyle experiences that only physical spaces can offer.

The day began with a series of Masterclasses, the first of which titled ‘2021: A Time for Action’ — was presented by internationally renowned shopping centre expert Phil McArthur, CSM,CDP,CRX, Founder and Chairman, McARTHUR Retail Development Specialists.

“Global and regional retail markets have been shaken over the past year. The impact of lockdowns and other Covid-19 prevention protocols has kept our valued customers at home. E-commerce has gained a further foothold through professional execution and lower prices.  With such challenges, how do we plan for success with our retail developments in the future?

“The biggest challenge for retail and retail developments in India are Covid 19 and e-commerce, he said, adding that industry needed a Battle Plan to ensure its future.

McArthur asserted the need to start planning now to ensure that retail investments are protected for the next 10+ years.

“Developers need to plan a strong destination using the strong fundamentals of retail real estate development. There is an international recipe for success for retail investment. In simplistic terms it can be boiled down to 10 major areas that must be executed at a world-class standard,” he added.

According to McArthur, the 10 major areas that must be executed at worldwide standards are:

  • Superior location with strong visibility, street appeal, promoted anchors and location in middle of catchment area.
  • Clearly defined trade area with demand for more retail development, including demand analysis, identifying the perfect mix, respect for competitors, and focusing on market share.
  • Comprehensive understanding of the trade area’s sales potential, including population, demographics, disposable income, shopping habits and warranted floor space.
  • Understand for your competition and the market share they have achieved
  • Medium to long-term sales and rental growth potential and asset appreciation, with owners required to focus on a long-term view, cash flows and profitable retailers, among other things.
  • Strong destinational anchors, attractions or services, including mall draws, cinemas, food destinations, strong anchors.
  • Appropriate retailer, service provider and food and beverage mix for your trade area
  • A strong functional, quality design and architecture creating favourite place, including guest experience, a sense of place, functional design, quality materials and strong architecture.
  • Ample parking and strong transit connectivity, with ease of access to mall and parking being strong focus points.
  • Professional Management, Leasing and Marketing Teams with strong vision, leadership, coordination, team work and ownership of ROI.

A masterclass on Mall Marketing & Initiatives, conducted by Yogeshwar Sharma, CEO & ED, Select Infrastructure, touched upon extending brand reach and maximise visibility to customers and on search engines, using digital media for maximisation of revenues, and enhancing Social Media visibility and engagement. 

Since beginning, mall marketing has been all about attracting and retaining retailers in form of B2B marketing, however as things has progressed, today things are very different and mall marketing today is about attracting the relevant footfall and to ensure that they are spending in the mall. Adding more to it, the marketing today has progressed into an era, where we (mall developers) can look forward for an emotional connect by giving the consumers value proposition services, as it results them coming back to mall again and again,” said Sharma.

“Nowadays with technology, every function is becoming specialized. Today consumer is very much involved and therefore the marketing must be very aware and updated with all the emerging trends in all the categories. The team must know what the consumer is thinking, and they must build strategies around it.”

According to Sharma, key components for a successful mall marketing and initiative are:

  • Brand Communication & PR
  • Décor
  • Activation & Promotion/ Exhibition
  • Occupier Relationship
  • CSR
  • Digital Marketing  

The following Masterclass on Digitisation and integration of Operational Process and Reports was conducted by Shibu Philips, Business Head-Malls, Lulu International Shopping Malls.

On the question of how mall management companies could create unified customer experiences, Philips said,”An IT-enabled process can facilitate an integration of activities and feedback across the multiple centres  that a mall management firm may be working on.”

On the major takeaways from the pandemic, Philips said,”A major lesson is that we need to know our consumer, and in order to know them, we have to know everything about them in order to offer unforgettable, hyper personalised experiences.”

“Secondly, we need to run operations that are tight, with all mall processes mapped and all input data being logged and accessible at all times,” he noted.  

The Masterclasses were followed by an ‘Insights Session’ on Retail & Shopping Centres Industry In India by Shubranshu Pani, MD, Retail, JLL India.

He focussed on the significance of quality space and infrastructure development for economy, Retail Real Estate as a Catalyst of Modern Retail and economic growth at large.

The GDP and consumption are very closely associated. If we put right infrastructure and the right retail space, it will certainly boost up the consumption for the malls. Going by the current situation, during COVID, the retail front is focusing on the wellness, lots of contactless engagement and technology and this is going to stay even after the pandemic,” said Pani.

We have seen lots of platforms coming up, most of the brands are going Omnichannel and everyone has got a digital upgrade for shopping. People now have alternate ways to shop and most of the people are still working from home, some are working from their hometown, which means the consumption in the Ter II towns is going to increase,” he added further.

The last pre-lunch discussion was a panel discussion —Retail Tomorrow — moderated by Rehan Huck, Co-Founder & COO, Propel (A Venture of ILC Group of Companies).

On the panel were Gurvineet Singh, CEO, Viviana Malls, Pramod Arora, Chief Growth & Strategy Officer, PVR; Rahul Vira, CEO, Skechers India; Sharad Sachdeva, Head Non Aero Business, Noida International Airport; Umang Mittal, ED, PRM Begraj Group; and Vineet Gautam, CEO, Bestseller India.

Vineet Gautam, CEO, Bestseller India emphasized on the reopening of physical store as a big plus point for the revival of retail.

“The physical touch in the store cannot be taken away and can neither be ruled out. One thing which we have noticed in the Unlock period that consumers now don’t want to go to small stores, they want good retail experience and hence are looking forward to the bigger stores. Despite online services and deliveries, the first choice of retail purchase would be the physical stores,” says Gautam.

Rahul Vira, CEO, Skechers India adds further, “Definition of retail space has become different. It has become different, bigger and more experiential. Replicating the online experience in the physical store will be the next big thing.”

The second session’s proceedings at the Shopping Centres Next 2021 began with the Inaugural Session, led by a Welcome Address by Mukesh Kumar, Chairman, Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI) and CEO, Infiniti Malls (Mumbai); the emphasis was on ‘Thinking Beyond the New Normal’.

Touching upon the severe business challenges faced by India’s retail and shopping centre industry over the past year, Mukesh Kumar said, “I would like to thank everyone who have travelled from different parts of the country despite many restrictions. The industry has been very badly hit due to delay in opening of the malls during both the waves of the pandemic. Last 15-18 months have been tough for all of us. It has been a huge loss and to top it all we didn’t get much support from the government. However, the year 2021 started on a good note. Still, we are going through a tough time and this unprecedented situation has highlighted the issues and requirements of the industry that need to be addressed.

“I must thank PR and Advocacy Committee, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) committee and SCAI board who worked tirelessly with the central government, state governments disaster management teams and local authorities for opening the malls.  The role of SCAI has expanded and become even more crucial now.  It was created with a vision to engage and encourage the development of the shopping centre industry in India, by equipping it with the knowledge base and operational skills and to enable the industry to assume its rightful place in society and the economy. It is important that we work together and strengthen the body to have a better say in the government,” he further added.

Following Kumar’s address to the delegates and participants, some of the shopping centre industry’s biggest and revered veterans delivered impressive addresses, via video-link.

Irfan Razack, CMD, Prestige Group said, “Retail and Shopping centre goes hand in hand. The malls in India have come off an age and it has become a way of life for the retail industry. The last two years have been a small pause in this journey due to the pandemic fear and panic.  It has created lots of changes in terms of trends and patterns which the retail industry will adapt completely. This however has brought a new debate, marking brick-and-mortar vs virtual retail.  Yes, virtual retail is growing due to the pandemic, but the physical retail will be evergreen. We will have to change and make strategies based on consumers’ new demands and trends.”

Sushil Mohta, Chairman Merlin Group of Companies and Partner- Director, South City Group said, “Malls are no longer the shopping destination only, but they are a place for an entire family outing.  Last 15 months, due to the restrictions, malls have not been able to conduct activities and events and as things are getting better, we are looking forward to good times. The events will once again bring back the charm and business for all of us.”

“Shopping centres should also understand the relevance of re-furnishing and refurbishing itself after a gap of 6-7 years. We recently opened our mall after refurnishing it. We rezoned the brands/retailers, got new brands, new F&B players and it has worked wonders for us,” he further added.

 Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Malls, said, “Despite the second lockdown, most of the malls have surpassed 70-80 percent of pre-COVID numbers and the effort needs to be applauded. Keeping this in mind, we also need to see how things have changed after COVID. Earlier the malls were considered a place for socializing, meet peoples in numbers but the situation is totally different now. This is a challenge for the marketing teams and these conferences will give us an idea, on how we can spread out our foot traffic and achieve those numbers soon.” said Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Malls.

“Work from home doesn’t mean buy from home and we hope more consumers will come out and do the shopping in malls,” he added further.  

The inaugural panel discussion focused on — and expanded upon — the event theme — Setting The Architecture For India’s Next-Generation Social, Retail & Leisure Spaces.

Moderated by Mukesh Kumar, Chairman, SCAI and CEO, Infiniti Malls, speakers on the panel included: Aman Trehan, Executive Director, Trehan IRIS; Ashish Shah, CMD, Shree Balaji Group; Deepak Kapoor, Director, Gulshan Homz; and Uddhav Poddar, MD & Group CEO, Bhumika Group.

Uddhav Poddar, MD & Group CEO, Bhumika Group explained, “The pandemic is going to stay and the mall developers are inculcating changes and strategies as per the situation. The demand for open spaces has increased and we have introduced changes in our dining area and have converted few restaurants into open space. which was initially the demand for open spaces, especially F&B and malls are the better option for this. We have also added space for co-working spaces in our upcoming mall.”

Deepak Kapoor, Director, Gulshan Homz said “Actual shopping cannot be replaced by virtual shopping, and it is a fact. Actual shopping includes experience and hence this retail model is irreplaceable. There are touchpoints for the consumers, and we need to understand that to make the experience for them to be flawless”.

This was followed by the CEO Thinkpad session, which kicked off with a presentation by Subhasis B Roy, Director – Real Estate, IWG on Making The Most Of Malls’ Unused Spaces 

While it’s a great idea for shopping centre developers to utilize the unused spaces and also get thousands of additional customers; for people using these spaces the benefits are many. Meeting clients at any of the malls’ convenient locations, taking a break to eat or go for a quick grocery shopping, calling over family or friends after work; they are likely to find themselves becoming more social after joining an in-mall coworking space. Roy’s presentation talked about this new phenomenon and how malls in India can make the best of this new trend.

Following Roy’s talk, a panel discussion took on the topic of The Dynamics Of Ever-Changing Scenario And How CEOs Are Coping To Get Ready For The Future, moderated by Yogeshwar, Sharma, CEO & ED, Select Infrastructure.

To succeed amid the shifting tides, shopping centre industry leaders need to build up competence in many new areas including making the most of mall’s unused spaces. This session brought together CEOs and business heads from some of India’s biggest shopping centre companies to discuss challenges, learnings and directions for the future.

On the panel were: Jayen Naik, Senior VP – Operations & Projects Nexus Malls; Khair Ull Nissa Sheikh, Executive Director, WTC Noida Development Company; Pramod Ranjan Dwivedi, President – Real Estate Div, Ambuja Neotia Group; Rajneesh Mahajan, CEO, Inorbit Malls; along with Subhasis B Roy of IWG.

A mega Roundtable session on Leasing & Business Development @ Malls & Retail was next, with over 50 BD heads from India’s biggest retail companies joining shopping centre heads and mall operations leaders to debate on Collaborative Innovation Between Malls & Retailers.

Collaborative innovation between tenants and developers will be a win-win game in challenging times. What lessons have been learnt from the challenges of 2020-21 to build mutual resilience and growth for the future?

Later in a discussion, moderated by Rajendra Kalkar, President West/Whole-Time Director, Phoenix Mills and Rahul Singh, Founder & CEO, The Beer Café, the participants debated on powerful new models and approaches to shopping centres excellence in a very changed and opportunity-rich Indian consumer landscape.

The participants emphasized that collaboration is the need of the hour and retailers, and shopping mall developers should take the learnings of the situation and build their future strategies based on it. The participants emphasized on ensuring different ways to utilize the potential strength of both the parties for a better success.

The final conference session was a crucial SCAI roundtable on Nation Retail Policy Formation emphasized on developing recommendations to form a robust retail policy in order to facilitate faster growth of the industry.  The discussion touched upon streamlining regulatory compliances/ licenses, forming uniform laws for parking, signages and facilities in all social places (public or private), improving access to capital, technology-led modernization, bridging infrastructure gaps, and improving manpower productivity.

The session was anchored by Rachit Mathur, Managing Director & Partner, BCG, Leader India Consumer & Retail Practice.