While the unorganised sector has been working diligently to reduce consumer stress, mall-owners feel they are overlooking an opportunity to leverage the organised retail sector.
Hence, mall-owners believe opening shopping malls can reboot the Indian economy and simultaneously promote safe shopping. They also pointed out that a well-thought-out retail action plan in collaboration with the government would also help accelerate the economy.
Atul Ruia, Managing Director and owner of well-known Phoenix Malls, said, “The back end of the industry cannot function if the front end is not operating.”
“We could implement measures in malls such as restricted operating hours (especially during non-peak hours), social distancing protocols, vacant seats between patrons in cinema halls, partitions between customers in restaurants, hand sanitizers and temperature checks at entrances and masks for all retail staff. The tenants in malls are all organized retailers, they will abide by all such rules and best practices,” he said.
According to the Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI), the shopping centre industry provides livelihood to over 12,000,000 citizens, directly and indirectly.
“Not only is it vital to organised retail in driving key sub-sectors like Entertainment, Fashion, Electronics, FMCG, Services, Cinema and Food & Beverages, it is far better equipped to ensure that public health-related measures are prioritised and uniformly implemented,” SCAI stated.
Shopping malls have the infrastructure, the space, and the staff to implement the requisite health and safety measures mandated by the government, in line with WHO guidelines and international best practices – it is far easier to monitor hygiene and social distancing at malls than anywhere else, opined mall owners.
“Reducing the risk of exposure will inspire confidence in consumers in stepping out of their homes into a safe shopping environment,” SCAI said.
Mall-owners believe that re-opening shopping malls will also bring economic relief to the lakhs of blue-collared workers and the many businesses dependent on them for their livelihoods.
Furthermore, as malls open and payments initiate, banking institutions could see relief to their stressed balance sheets.
Getting shopping malls back on track would make a huge impact during these testing times.
A data from SCAI indicates that there are 650 large shopping centres that contribute over Rs 180,000 crore in sales with 1000 plus smaller shopping centres contributing another Rs 50,000 crore to the sales of the organised retail sector.
“Re-opening these shopping malls sooner would not only mean a boost to the economy, but also help build life after COVID 19 by offering some sense of normalcy. All this, in a safe, hygienic, and controlled physical space,” said Ruia.