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Jul, 07 2014

The changing mall mix

As malls evolve by the day to keep the customer coming back for more, we take a close look at the new trends that are coming up in the mall space- how malls are fighting challenges like e-retail and how services are seen occupying more space. Here's a loo

A few years ago they were not even heard of. As they opened, one by one, there was a lot of speculation about their future. But as they thrived, the term 'shopping experience' got a complete facelift. Bringing different brands under one roof, in one secured shopping area, away from the heat and the dust and other inclement weather conditions, malls changed the way India shopped. Over the years, these malls have become a way of living for urban Indians and are almost the first place that occurs to one's mind the moment you say the word 'recreation'.

As malls prospered, they understood the psyche of the Indian customer, the needs and demands of the new age shopper and evolved accordingly to keep pace with the changing times. Food courts sprang up, recreational areas (besides cinema halls) made a foray, promotional activities became a particular feature and seasonal discounts / schemes / festivals made the people visit again for more.

Manpreet Gulri, Country Head, Subway Systems India Pvt. Ltd says, “From being a single destination for multiple needs, the concept of a shopping mall has come a long way today. There is a profound focus on engaging the audience at these locations, particularly because of the stimulating environment that malls possess and spending potential of the customer. For instance, brand related activities are organised periodically in order to create visibility and connect with the consumer.”

Generating buzz

Most of the times, malls and brands work together to generate a buzz around the entire space. Brands pitch in with innovative ideas and activities to gel in with the mall's culture and make it more attractive to the customers.

“The malls we have dealt with have actively collaborated in our initial design process. There is generally strong emphasis on visual merchandising elements in malls to reinforce the theme and build the mood of the space”, says Vikas Agarwal, Director, Shoexpress.

Asheeta Chhabra, Head- Business Development, Chhabra 555 makes another point saying, “sometimes a brand has to launch a few activities and other sale boosting strategies which it is not launching for any other outlet located outside the mall. Seasonal campaigns, event launch, gift vouchers and other exciting offers are a part of sales boosting strategies applied by a mall and followed by a store.

Mall mix in a state of flux

Besides customers' changing preferences, there are other factors as well that determine what all a mall inhabits. Changing market conditions and technological advancements pose various challenges that need to be tackled. The biggest challenge for malls at the moment is E-retail.

“E-retail is a challenge for all mall developers and retailers. Due to the advent of E-retail, the category mix at malls will change. To give a better customer experience at our malls, we will increase food and beverage and health and beauty space”, says Pushpa Bector, Senior VP, Head (Leasing & Mall management), DLF Mall of India.

Agrees Yogeshwar Sharma, CEO, Select Infrastructure (P) Ltd, the company behind Select City Walk, Saket (Delhi), "Mall developers need to evolve the mall mix as per shoppers' demand. In India, shopping is not a need based phenomenon, it is more occasional shopping phenomenon."

Today, malls are transforming into "the-one-stop-shop" for all the needs- retail and services. Slowly but steadily, they are embracing the advent of services brands in their comfy compounds.

It isn't uncommon to locate a good spa or a leading salon brand or a top-notch travel agency in high end malls. Though miniscule at the moment, the shift is definitely being noticed.

“Apart from being a shopper's paradise, malls today offer much more than just the satisfaction of consuming a branded product. The services, ranging from recreational and grooming facilities to special services for baby care, have been idealised keeping in mind the women customers and their role as decision makers and the ones who influence men's shopping. The change is an effort to tap more and more consumers who visit the malls for leisure and socialising purposes. Malls are trying to provide a complete consumer experience under one roof”, says Gulri of Subway.

Vikas Agarwal of Shoexpress agrees saying, “Malls have become community centers more than shopping centers due to lack of other recreational spaces available in our cities and towns. A higher percentage of the consumer spend is being allocated towards services like f&b, entertainment, etc. It is important that the tenant mix of the mall comprises various categories rather than maximising revenues as services would generally realise lower rentals. This change is welcome as this will also avoid overcrowding of fashion categories which has happened in many malls in the past.”

MJ Puri, CEO, Ganga Spa adds, “Service is required often, products are purchased just once in a while. So malls are laying emphasis on services now.”

Peek into the future

According to a recent report by real estate consultancy firm Jones Lang LaSalle, at the end of 2013, the built-up mall area across Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Pune stood at 76 million sq. feet. It is estimated this will cross the 100 million sq. feet mark in 2016, touching 107.8 million sq. feet in 2017.

What's more, net addition to mall space in these 7 cities is set to more than double to 11.6 million square feet by 2014 end. Obviously then, with so many malls coming up, there will be competition to attract the customer. Malls will continue to evolve, be it attracting customers by amazing them with novel concepts, such as flash mobs to promote a product or gradually shifting the mall mix to need based requirement and including services or take to specialisation and open up specialised malls like jewellery malls, booze malls, food malls; niche malls, discount malls, highway malls etc.


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