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Unlock 1.0: Now, get ready to pre-book a visit to the mall

Apparel stores will be encouraged to avoid trial of clothes. Washrooms in malls will also see some changes. Every alternate urinal and washbasins will be blocked and only limited people would be allowed at any given point.

If you are planning to go to a shopping mall next week, be ready for a few surprises. But to start with, don't forget to pre-book a visit to the mall and most importantly, don't forget to put on a mask.

In order to ensure social distancing norms, mall owners said they have put in place a series of standard operating procedures for their tenants and would allow only one person for every 75 sq ft in the mall. They will also have a live feed showing the number of people inside the mall at any given point in time to ensure social distancing norms are not flouted.

"Enhanced measures will be implemented to avoid congregation of crowds in the shopping centres. Besides food courts, parking too would be reduced to 50 percent. The number of people entering the mall would be restricted and entry could be stopped once a particular number is reached. We are, therefore, encouraging retailers to take pre-bookings from customers. It is important that shoppers should feel safe," Mukesh Kumar, CEO, Infiniti Mall, told Moneycontrol.


As part of the measures, shopping centre visitors will be required to undergo temperature screening. Visitors will also be required to adhere to store-level temperature screening, he said.

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Mall owners are also hoping that shoppers would stream in "cautiously". Initially, the number of people who come in would be down by at least 50 percent of what it was pre-COVID and the numbers would gradually pick up.

"It will be a cautious way up, not a spike. But what is important is that we are prepared," said Pushpa Bector, Executive Director DLF Shopping Malls, DLF Shopping Malls.

Also Read | Opening shopping malls can reboot economy, albeit with all safety precautions: Mall-owners

The Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI) has circulated guidelines to all its 200-odd members.

Also Read | Decision to open shopping centres from June 8 will help ease pressure: SCAI

"There would be thermal temperature checks in place. Wearing a mask will be compulsory. There would be sanitation stations at regular intervals across the retail property," said a mall owner.

Only one person on every three steps on an escalator will be permitted. Stores will also have to ensure social distancing. There would be a plexi-glass installed at all cash counters to reduce contact. All shopping centres will also have mandatory isolation rooms – a small dedicated area onsite to isolate potential positive cases.

The SCAI has issued guidelines that all air-conditioning in malls should be controlled to ensure at least 30 per cent is fresh air and temperatures will be maintained between 24C-30C.

Apparel stores will be encouraged to avoid trial of clothes. Washrooms in malls will also see some changes. Every alternate urinal and washbasins will be blocked and only limited people would be allowed at any given point.

Seating at food courts too would be reduced by half. There would be distance markers at every quick service restaurant to ensure social distancing and a plexiglass would be installed at QSR front areas to reduce physical contact.

DLF Shopping Malls would be launching a new version of its Lukout app, which would be integrated with the Aaragya Setu app and would have social distancing features.

"All that the shopper would have to do is show it to the camera and get his temperature checked instantly. Since he would be QR coded, he would get priority access into the building," said Bector.

The app would have a pre-booking feature to get priority access into the mall and would also inform a shopper once he is inside the mall whether there is crowding in any part of the property, she said.

"Planned shopping will be the name of the game going forward. You will make lists like grocery lists. The purpose is to try and ease mall visits by shoppers through technology. We are planning to introduce this one week post the opening of the malls. We are trying to do it at the periphery of the building itself so that customers do not have to go through the embarrassment of getting their temperature checked in front of many people. It would be done discreetly. In case they are found with high temperature, they would be politely asked to come back again. Those being dropped off in their cars would get their cars sanitised at the ramp itself," she added.

Asked if the company had taken any decision with regard to renegotiating rentals, she said: "We are in the process of evaluating rentals and will announce it soon. It will be on a case-by-case basis."

The way forward for retail

The government has permitting reopening of malls from June 8, 2020 after almost three months of closure owing to COVID-19. Mall operators and retailers can now plan a calibrated opening in the days ahead.

According to a report by ICICI Securities, mall consumption may eventually normalise by Q4FY21 (January-March 2021), mall owners may have to incur rental income losses of 25-40% in FY21E depending on extent of rental waivers offered, if any, and possible shift to a pure revenue share model from minimum guarantee once malls reopen.

It noted that even when malls reopen, social distancing and safety norms, negative sentiment and economic uncertainty will influence consumption patterns which may take 2-3 quarters to normalise.

Given the evolving situation with respect to COVID-19 across India, mall operators and their tenants/retailers potentially face losses in the March-June 2020 period, the report said.

However, in case of an improved situation from Q2FY21 onwards (July 2020), consumers will flock back to malls. “We derive comfort on this front from the fact that tier I malls in India have now evolved into lifestyle destinations and present a clean, safe and easily accessible entertainment option in India’s Tier I cities. However, the pace of recovery of consumption across individual malls and categories may vary widely before it settles down by Q4FY21 (January-March 2021),” the report added.

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First Published on Jun 3, 2020 03:25 pm