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Safety on Priority

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With malls getting back on feet once again, across India, more than the footfalls or sales the team behind each shopping centre is more concerned about customer safety. They are observant of the ongoing norms and in preparation of the festive sales are gearing up to support the customer with best support.

Catching up with the trend
Salim Roopani, Centre Director, Elante Mall (Nexus Malls) mentioned that at Elante Mall they are following all the SOP’s laid down by SCAI and MHA. “However, this time around when we reopened the malls to the customers as a part of Unlock 2.0, we have noticed the customers who visiting the mall are far more focused on what they want and their dwell times are lower too. While we have deployed floor wardens to ensure COVID appropriate behaviour, the customers themselves have become far more responsible this time. We are seeing healthier sales recoveries as compared to Unlock 1.0. We closed July 2021 with almost 100 per cent sales recoveries and fashion, electronics and luxury categories have done better business. We are also seeing a lot of families return to their weekend dine-out routines in Chandigarh, which is a great sign. At Nexus Malls, safety of our staff, customers, retail partners and third party partners is paramount. Before we reopened our doors to customers as a part of Unlock 1.0, we realised people had a lot of apprehensions about the safety and hygiene if they visited malls. In order to address this, we joined hands with Bureau Veritas and ICMR to ensure they audited our premises to ensure we delivered a hygienic and safe shopping experience to our customers.

At the portfolio level, we also launched our #WeCare initiative, under which we ensured that we reopened our malls in Unlock 2.0 with 100 per cent vaccinated staff. We arranged for all our stakeholders to get vaccinated on our premises, to ensure the safety of our patrons is not compromised. Besides this, we are following all the guidelines as laid down by the local authorities without deviation,” he added.

Taking pride in brand mix which they have at Elante Mall. Roopani mentioned that during both Unlock phases, their sales recoveries were close to 100 per cent within the first 45 days. While the footfalls were lower as compared to Pre-COVID times, but the ticket size has gone up significantly for the customers. Fashion, Luxury and Electronics are the categories which were the fastest off the block during both the Unlock phases.

“In this #NewNormal, we had to make several changes to the traditional way in which brick and mortar retail used to operate. To ensure that customers could shop from the comfort of their homes, we onboarded all our retail partners for a ‘Chat and Shop’ convenience which introduced. This service allowed customers to video call the staff at most of retail partners at the mall and shop for whatever they wanted. These purchases were then made available for curbside pickup, or could be delivered to their homes as well. I genuinely feel that nothing beats the joy and experience of shopping in physical form. Yes, there might have been a spike in the online sales during these COVID times, but I am fairly confident that shoppers will return to malls for several of their needs as soon as the situation normalizes. India is still a ‘touch and feel’ country, people here still like to be physically present while making a purchase for a high value item, or when they go out for their monthly shopping with families. There will be a few categories which we do well online, but there are a few other categories which will only do well in the physical form,” he further added.

At the portfolio level, Elante is working on a couple of things to help aid the consumption and lift the customer experience at the mall level. They are working on an App, which they will be rolling out soon. The second thing is using of their social media platforms to curate relevant content to create awareness and engagement with their patrons, at the same time build a higher recall. They are also exploring a few other avenues in the online space, which they will disclose as soon as things are ready to be launched.

Elante, uses cloud based applications to enhance the efficiency of the team and generate that digitally that can be analysed. For them technology is the prime tool and they have put it to use in almost everything that we do, for example

  • They use a cloud-based app to register, track and resolve all their daily operational issues and snags and will soon be extending that for their retail partners too.
  • All their departmental checklists & audits are digital and real time with auto emailers and reminders, whether it is house-keeping, engineering or Fire & Safety, to ensure 100 per cent adherence to the set process.
  • They use state of the art software for Leasing and Marketing Inventory.
  • Their Invoicing too is with Auto GST compliant E-Invoicing.
  • They are moving towards end-to-end automation in Engineering department.
  • Digitally driven real time RSI and CSI.
  • They will soon launch our app with a bunch of smart additions for their customers including in-mall navigation, loyalty program and real time mall updates.

Staying close to the customer
Sushil Mohta, Chairman-Merlin Group, President-Credai West Bengal highlights that the trend of shoppers stepping out to visit the mall is more to do with essentials shopping. The pandemic has made people aware of their safety and shopping for necessity is more a practical prospect now. So, basically with shopping they are also looking for a safe place to hang out like Malls so as to break away from their monotonous “work from home life” schedule.

“When we opened the doors of the mall for consumers once again, the footfall was just 20 per cent. Initially it was the F&B sector doing good business; then to Footwear; then to Jewelry. Online shopping will never be a threat to the brick-n-mortar segment, because of India with such a vast population. Everyone is curious to know the unknown; and to see the unseen. Therefore, it is true that people are liking to shop from their comfort zone of sitting on couches and shopping online, just for experience, which is momentary.  However, the fun of shopping always lies on first hand experiences of products, trying them on and buying it. Moreover, fun of shopping offline includes hanging out with friends & family, eating, shopping, entertainment and other activities,” Mohta added.

To further make the mall a safe place for shoppers, he highlights the initiatives they have taken up.

  • Washbasins has been installed in front of the entry gates of the malls for proper hand-sanitization with liquid soap.
  • Branding is done in the entire mall about covid safety protocols.
  • Customers are allowed to enter the mall after proper thermal temperature check.
  • Floor stickers are pasted in front of the stored for maintaining 6 ft. distance
  • Restrictions of number of people allowed inside lift has been properly mentioned inside and outside lift.
  • Continuous sanitation is being done of the entire property.
  • Standees mentioning Covid Protocols to be maintained while using the escalator has been installed in front of all the escalators.
  • Ensured all the staffs and employees vaccinated.
  • Continuous posting of videos of the safety protocols maintained by Acropolis Mall in all the social media platforms.
  • Escalator railings are sanitised with UVC technology.

“We have also initiated few effective mediums of promotions post COVID:

  • Promotions through influencers (Influencers Marketing- Instagram, YouTube, Facebook).
  • Promotions through brand associations (cross networking).
  • Conducting LIVE events or sessions through Facebook and Instagram.
  • Conducting Online contests like – Digital Fashion show, photography contest, Art Contest, etc.
  • Posting effective micro videos / reels for organic reach and brand awareness.
  • Organizing sales boosting activities during pre-festive seasons and offline food fairs for customer attractions.

We are trying our best possible ways to support the brands through 360 degree promotions – online and offline. We are conceptualizing effective marketing and promotional strategies (online & offline) based on target groups and brands present in our mall. We use Facebook and Google platform for promotion. To increase the footfall, sales promotion activities are taking place in the mall. We are creating awareness about the brands present in the mall. We place ads on YouTube channel, apps, TV channels & print media, as well,” Mohta further highlighted.

Keeping an eye on customers
Rajneesh Mahajan, Chief Executive Officer, Inorbit Malls India Private Limited notes that the customer behaviour has evolved a lot given the pandemic. “With the first unlocking, we saw consumers shopping with a specific intent and not looking to spend long hours at the mall. They are conscious and careful about safety precautions. With the current unlocking, we are seeing people come not just to shop but also the experience the mall and have a great time with friends and family. Vaccination drives and government relaxations towards Back to office in cities like Hyderabad have given people enough confidence to visit malls. Our currently operational malls in Hyderabad and Vadodara have been seeing a recovery rate of 60 per cent in footfall and nearly 100 per cent recovery in consumption compared to same month in 2019. Multiplexes are open and the overall sentiments look positive. As a mall, we are very focused on enhancing customer experience. Safety and hygiene is a top priority for us and we are doing everything to ensure that our customers feel safe from the moment they step in. Social distancing, mandatory masks, sanitizers at all touch points, frequent sanitization of the mall. Vaccination of all employees working at the mall has been prioritized by the management. Business has picked up and July’21 has been the best month so far post the pandemic. Vadodara has beaten July19 numbers and achieved 101 per cent consumption recovery whereas Hyderabad is at 94 per cent. Categories like electronics, Lifestyle & fitness and food court have witnessed a double digit growth over July 2019 in Vadodara. We are optimistic that in the upcoming festive season our business will improve further,” Mahajan added.

“Both online and offline businesses are growing. Brands have serviced online orders via the hyperlocal model – orders were fulfilled from the mall to expedite home deliveries. Malls are not just shopping spaces but have evolved as social spaces and customers are eager to visit the mall to relax, refresh and have a great time with friends and family. Every customer has a different preference and as a mall we cater to a community. We are constantly evaluating new brands to fill in gaps and remain relevant. We are happy brands like Under Armour, Dyson, Birkenstock, Marks and Spencer, Theobroma & Bateel have joined the Inorbit family and received a great response. Despite the economic slowdown due to the pandemic, brands are approaching us for space and seeking support for a short period to sail through this uncertain phase. We are supporting them in structuring the transaction with zero impact on overall rental values, which results in a win-win model. We are excited to explore the AI tools to track the customer journey inside the mall. We are also working on enhancing the touch less technology in our car park, valet for better operational efficiencies,” he further highlighted.