Covid-19 crisis: Malls roll out red carpet but crowds missing on Day One

Topics malls in India | Malls | Lockdown

Shoppers at Select Citywalk Mall in New Delhi. Many were excited to be finally out shopping, even with social distancing norms in place. Photo: Dalip Kumar
Rajiv Tandon, a regular at the Select CityWalk Mall in the capital, looked grumpy Monday afternoon. He had managed to grab a few skincare items from the list his wife had prepared, but not everything. Coming out of the Clinique outlet, 48-year-old Tandon from Greater Kailash said it was quite a task spotting an exact product out of dozens of similar looking skincare items. Tandon, who’s been working from home since the Covid-19 outbreak, had to come shopping without his wife and children as a precautionary measure. In fact, the mall had a large majority of male visitors, like Tandon, on day one of reopening after 75 days of lockdown.

Among the fewer women shoppers, Komal and her two friends were busy checking out the H&M collection. They were excited to be finally out shopping, even with social distancing norms in place at every point including on escalators. 

The retail outlets also followed the norm—just about half of them were open.

The Select CityWalk Mall – spread over 1.3 million sq ft – can accommodate more than 100,000 people. The allowed visitor count, going by the one in every 75 sq ft rule, was 17,000. Estimates till late Monday afternoon showed only about 1,000 had stepped in so far.

The level of footfall was poor elsewhere too. Phoenix Marketcity, a key mall in Bengaluru, saw 20 per cent occupancy compared to pre-Covid times. “The response has been moderate but the conversion rate has been almost 90 per cent. The shopping ranged from fast-fashion to skincare to electronics,” said Gajendra Singh Rathore, senior centre director at the mall. They are hopeful of footfall growing to 80 per cent by the weekend.

More than 250 malls were operational on Monday across the country. This is a fraction of the 650 plus large malls in India. While metros witnessed low footfall, malls in smaller cities were rather full. At Junction mall in Durgapur, for instance, the reported footfall was 70 per cent of the usual numbers with 3,000 visitors making it to the venue by early evening. Lulu Mall in Kochi attracted as many as 10,000 visitors on Monday, according to executives. Elante Mall in Chandigarh too was bullish as 5,000 customers had already visited in the first few hours.

Others, such as Orion Mall in Bengaluru, are expecting business to grow. According to an executive at Brigade Group, which owns Orion Mall, footfall may grow to 70 per cent by Sunday.

Ahmedabad One, the city’s largest mall, had a decent turnout even in poor weather. Despite waterlogging at the gates, the mall had seen a footfall of around 3,500 by afternoon. As part of the government's SOPs, the mall allowed only 100 stores to open on the first day. "Stores were asked to maintain all norms of hygiene and social distancing and maximum five customers at a time were allowed. We are also encouraging customers to use our in-house app for ordering at our food courts since restaurants within the malls are yet to open," said Jayen Naik, senior vice president - operations at Nexus Malls that operates the mall.

But, the Quest Mall in Kolkata, one of the hottest high street destinations in the city, registered limited footfall. “People will take another 7-15 days to get out of their home, till then we can hope to be optimistic,’’ said Sanjeev Mehra, vice president at the Quest Mall, adding that lack of confidence about safety measures was not a reason for poor turnout.

In cities such as Lucknow and Hyderabad, people flocked to salons. In most other centres, electronics and cosmetics remained the top choice.

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