As shopping malls get ready to open from June 8 with standard operating procedures in place, some heads of malls say that this will lead to rise in maintenance costs by at least 15 to 20 percent.
In order to ensure social distancing norms, mall owners said they have put in place a system that 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 and there is no overcrowding.
Food courts and parking capacity too have been reduced by half. Some malls will be encouraging retailers to take pre-bookings from customers.
"It is important that shoppers should feel safe,"Jayen Naik, Senior Vice President, Operations and Projects, Nexus Malls, told Moneycontrol, adding that even if it leads to additional costs, mall owners would have to bear it for now to ensure that confidence among customers is restored.
The SOPs released on June 4 mandate staggered entry of shoppers into the mall and deployment of adequate manpower by the mall management to ensure social distancing norms.
SOPs state that frequently touched surfaces like door knobs, elevator buttons, hand rails, benches and washroom fixtures in common areas as well as inside shops, elevators, escalators should be cleaned and regularly disinfected using 1 per cent sodium hypochlorite mandatorily.
Deep cleaning of all washrooms shall be ensured at regular intervals. In the food-courts, adequate crowd and queue management is to be ensured and not more than 50 per cent of seating capacity should be permitted, the SOPs underlined.
There should be proper crowd management in the parking lots and outside the premises and preferably separate entry and exits for visitors, workers and goods/supplies should be organized, the SOPs have said.
Physical distancing of a minimum of 6 feet, when queuing up for entry and inside the shopping mall should be maintained as far as feasible while the number of customers inside the shop should be kept at a minimum, so as to maintain the physical distancing norms.
Thermal screening provisions will be placed at the entrance and visitors will be allowed only if they use face cover or masks, which should be worn at all times inside the premises, the ministry has said.
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For air-conditioning/ventilation, the guidelines of CPWD shall be followed which inter alia emphasises that the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30 degree C, relative humidity should be in the range of 40-70 per cent, intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate.
Amitabh Taneja, Chairman, Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI), has welcomed the guidelines put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.
"The Shopping Centres Association of India has already prepared and circulated an even more exhaustive and stringent SOPs that not only conform to the guidelines set forth by the Health Ministry; to ensure that malls and shopping centres offer the safest possible environment to the shoppers and staff alike," he said.
Nexus Malls has joined hands with a global certification firm Bureau Veritas for their 'Safety First' initiative. The objective of ‘Safety First’ is to comply with optimum standards of health and safety recommendations of the WHO/local authorities are implemented without any deviations, said Naik.
The company has also put in place an app that records not only the number of people entering the mall, but also those exiting it in order to restrict entry if required.
"Sanitation material would be required on a daily basis and additional manpower would have to deployed be it those ensuring sanitation, checking shoppers are the entry or the backend staff. This is sure to increase maintenance costs by at least 15 to 20 percent," he told Moneycontrol.
Mukesh Kumar, CEO, Infiniti Mall, said their malls are fully covered and adhere to all the SOPs.
"There’s hardly anything that we have not planned. As far as costs are concerned, I don’t see costs getting involved in this. SOPs have been developed to ensure that even smaller malls can adhere to them and they can’t spend too much money. We have made sure that we do not have to spend too much on capex and that it remains within the reach of people. A few thousands is what it will cost," he said.
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 Pushpa Bector, Executive Director DLF Shopping Malls.
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 also 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.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak here