RETAIL REAL ESTATE STRATEGY MEET: MALLS & RETAILERS TALK COLLABORATION, CO-CREATION OF CONSUMER CONFIDENCE & DIGITAL TRIGGERS TO BOOST DEMAND
Shopping Centre News|January 2021
IMAGES Group’s 1st on-ground event post-COVID, Retail Real Estate Strategy Meet was all about listening to and absorbing ideas and initiatives which some of the top retailers and shopping centre heads came up with during and after the lockdown to get back on the track of revival and growth…

In an attempt to announce the return of normalcy to the real estate and retail sectors, IMAGES Group successfully conducted its first physical event – after a long gap of 12 months, ever since the pandemic broke out. ‘Retail Real Estate Strategy Meet’ was organised on January 22, 2021, at Aerocity, which witnessed a gathering of around 100 experts from the Shopping Centre and Retail industries. The event was conducted keeping all the COVID guidelines mentioned by the Central and the State governments, giving importance to social distancing and hygiene.

The evening was spent listening to and absorbing ideas and initiatives which some of the top shopping centres have come up with during and after the lockdown to get back on the track of revival and growth. The event was powered by Arklan and supported by IRIS Broadway, Palm Walk, EPICAH, Migsun, KW Delhi6, Mohali Walk, Boulevard Walk, and JS Martin & Co.

Amitabh Taneja CMD, IMAGES Group & Chairman, SCAI welcomed guests to the first occasion where they were physically meeting after almost a year of virtual conferences and events. He spoke on the revival graph of the Shopping Centre Industry and thanked mall developers for their efforts in dealing with the most challenging hand they have ever been dealt.

“The Indian Shopping industry is the key driver of consumerism in India and we believe that modern retail drives consumption. Today, if you see Fortune 500 Companies, retailers are amongst the top ten in the list. Aside from being the largest business, it is also one of the toughest and most challenging fields to be in. However, the consumerism in India has not scaled up to the level we were hoping it would, but I believe with the help of the shopping centres and organised retailers, we can build the consumption story of India,” he said.

Retail Real Estate Strategy Meet

A discussion wherein mall developers and retailers from the Delhi region shared their views and experience from the pandemic ensued. The key highlights of the discussion were:

How to build consumer confidence

How to co-create digital triggers to boost demand

Analysing mall experiences and top-line sales

The session was moderated by Yogeshwar Sharma, Executive Director, Select CITYWALK. The other speakers in the panel included:

Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Malls

Harsh V Bansal, Director, Unity Group

Gaurav Juneja, Director, Hari Om Retail Private Ltd.

Sukhwinder Singh Thukral, Owner, Venus Steps

Deepak Aggarwal, Founder & Managing Director, Kazo

Sharad Batra, Co-founder & Director, Café Delhi Heights

Collaboration is the New Normal

Introducing the key topics of discussion, Yogeshwar Sharma said, “Collaboration is the keyword of the day, something which has become a reality in COVID times. A huge surge in collaboration was witnessed in this period, between retailers, brands, mall developers and technology service providers. We all have been through tough times, and finally, we are on a stage where we can say the rough period is behind us and we are moving towards normalcy at a good speed.”

Expressing his views on the recovery and collaboration, Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Malls said, “Yes, we are back, and I would say with a thud, if not a nearly a bang. In terms of growth, numbers, and percentage in comparison to last year, we were pretty much on similar grounds. We have touched 70-75 percent of the last year’s numbers and this was what we had predicted in the initial re-opening after the COVID-led lockdown as well. I agree with Yogeshwar Sharma that none of this would have been possible without a collaborative approach, which we as mall developers took with the retailers. Both of us helped each other out in the beginning when the malls were opening or about to open. The big thing which we managed was not to shut down any stores and 100 percent occupancy of the mall was retained and when the mall reopened after the lockdown, it gave immense confidence to not only us but the retailers and consumers as well. That made a huge difference and slowly gradually over a period of two months between July to August, we saw the consumers coming back.”

“THE BIG THING WHICH WE MANAGED WAS NOT TO SHUT DOWN ANY STORES AND 100 PERCENT OCCUPANCY OF THE MALL WAS RETAINED. WHEN THE MALL REOPENED, IT GAVE IMMENSE CONFIDENCE TO NOT ONLY US BUT THE RETAILERS AND CONSUMERS AS WELL.”

– ABHISHEK BANSAL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PACIFIC MALLS

One of the major concerns which mall developers had to contend with in initial days was ‘how to retain consumers in a scenario when only 50 percent occupancy was allowed inside the mall’. Harsh V Bansal, Director, Unity Group said that they had to make create different strategies to counter this situation. “Aside from this, we saw that consumers did start coming back to the mall, especially with the onset of the festive season. The festive season, starting with Raksha Bandhan turned out to be very fortunate for malls, and gave us some of our confidence back since more and more customers started coming back and spending time in here,” he stated.

“CONSUMERS DID START COMING BACK TO THE MALL WITH THE ONSET OF THE FESTIVE SEASON, STARTING WITH RAKSHA BANDHAN. IT GAVE US SOME OF OUR CONFIDENCE BACK SINCE MORE AND MORE CUSTOMERS STARTED COMING BACK AND SPENDING TIME IN HERE.”

– HARSH V BANSAL, DIRECTOR, UNITY GROUP

Sharad Batra, Co-Founder & Director, Café Delhi Heights agreed with and emphasized on the concept of collaboration saying that it worked for his organisation extremely well during the crisis period. “The good relationship factor with our landlords totally paid off for us. The food service industry was hit hard during COVID and received very little support from Government agencies. However, our mall developer landlords supported us completely and as we survived the initial phase, things started turning for us, ultimately helping our business reach respectable pre-COVID levels.”

“THE RANGE IS INDICATIVE. REAL STORIES LIE BETWEEN THESE AVERAGES, BECAUSE CERTAIN CATEGORIES ARE REALLY DOING WELL AND SOME ARE SUFFERING A LOT. THE CATEGORIES SUFFERING NEED SUPPORT FOR A LONGER DURATION AND THERE IS NO TIMELINE FOR THIS SUPPORT.”

– YOGESHWAR SHARMA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SELECT CITYWALK

Batra explained that with the help of mall heads, who are experienced and understand the industry better than most, foodservice operators tweaked their business models, successfully implemented social distancing norms, while keeping an eye on expenses. “The occupancy cost came down and we learned to manage operational costs by limiting menus, limiting the number of people working for us,” he stated.

“WE COLLABORATED WITH OTHER RETAILERS OF DIFFERENT CATEGORIES AROUND OUR STORE IN ORDER TO PULL IN THEIR CUSTOMERS AND GIVE THEM OURS. THE IDEA OF SHARING CONSUMERS ACROSS DIFFERENT CATEGORIES WITH NO COMPETITION HELPED US ALL.”

– GAURAV JUNEJA, DIRECTOR, HARI OM RETAIL PRIVATE LTD.

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