A little over a decade ago, Chandigarh got its first mall in Fun Republic. FR, as it was popularly known, was the address to hang out with friends and family. Then we got DT and in quick succession came the rest, including Centra Mall, and before they knew it Chandigarhians were spoilt for choice. So when Larsen and Toubro’s Elante Mall arrived on the scene last year, there was an initial hesitation as many wondered if the tricity had already reached saturation in terms of the mall culture. A year on, we have a completely new story to share.
In terms of the practicality of design and area, most tricity malls have conveniently fallen into a trap of stale and stagnant virtues. An increasingly thriving and modern outlook of city residents led to the rise in the number of malls over the past 10 years, but very few of them have been able to live up to their fullest potential. While the idea was to change the shopping scenario by reducing the number of Delhi trips city residents took for luxury brands, the tricity’s malls have been witnessing a fallback with numerous limitations and a lack of execution, despite the vision.
It was its sheer size that turned out to be Elante’s unique selling proposition or USP. The big boss is spread over 21.5 acres with a threestoreyed parking facility that can accommodate more than 5,700 cars at a time. No wonder Elante Mall bagged the city customers’ favour in a single blow.
Designed by an Australian firm, this project turned out to be an excellent development model. The massive space of Elante that caters to a large variety of brands and facilities, makes it a familyoriented hangout. “It’s a grandson to grandpa’s place. Your child can easily enjoy at the gaming zone or watch a movie, while your father reads over coffee in a cozy café, giving you ample time to shop with your wife,” says Ankush Chopra, 26, a resident of Chandigarh’s Sector 20. Elante became popular because it correctly perceived customers’ notions. “It delivers to the satisfaction of what the people were expecting since a long time. I don’t have to run to Delhi or Gurgaon over the weekend to shop for a special occasion,” says Kanika Sehgal, 19, a medical student. DT Mall is equally well-versed with customers’ needs but is limited to a mediocre 2 lakh square feet of space in a square-box structure, considerably reducing variety. It had the advantage of an excellent location and an ultra-modern environment, being situated in the Information Technology (IT) Park bordering Panchkula, but failed to escalate to a very high level. Other malls such as Centra, Waves and Fun Republic remain restricted by a lack of area for their development. North Country Mall on the Kharar-Mohali road is spread over 17.5 lakh sq feet but still continues to suffer from poor business due to inactivity. This startup, with sky high expectations, hasn’t been set in motion yet. It also suffers a major disadvantage of location, being at a greater distance than most tricity malls.
malls, new mall strategies and developments are in the air. A new concept called specialty malls has been introduced in the city. While some malls are introducing new marketing strategies, others plan to completely change their look and reinvent themselves.DT Mall, for instance, has undertaken a new strategy of converting itself into a specialty mall and will now be a premium outlet mall, conceptualising factory outlet malls. “We will shortly be introducing many new brands such as Aldo, Jack & Jones, Vero Moda and Lacoste soon along with regular event promotions to gear up,” says Caroline Dangwal, the mall manager. Centra Mall will also introduce a beer bar and a food court, while their main highlight will be a new discotheque on the third floor, which is expected by September this year.
Fall of malls
So what went wrong for most malls? “There has to be something lucrative to offer to customers. Shalimar-Fame in Panchkula was launched without any proper eatery or major retail shops. In fact, both Shalimar and Centra are poorly planned and not technically sound,” says Rishi Garg, 29, an architect and a resident of Chandigarh’s Sector 34. “Chandigarh is a garden city; people are used to properly planned open shopping plazas and markets which is why none of these malls could do well,” says his wife, Astha Garg, 27, who is also an architect. Apart from the scarcity of area, experts say that these malls were bound to fall due to their mismanaged planning and design. While Centra Mall has an excellent location, it lacks a parking capacity making it unattractive; while North Country Mall suffers from a poor location and involves navigating through heavy traffic. Fun Republic, on the other hand, is located on the outskirts of Chandigarh and in the middle of a motor market. Shalimar is abuzz only when a hit movie is showing or when tickets are difficult to get in other multiplexes. Only on a Thursday, it sees an average crowd, mostly of senior citizens, who come to enjoy movies at cheaper rates. For the past fortnight, a note has been pasted at the ticket booking counter that warns patrons about lifts and escalators to the fourth floor Inox theatres not working. “We have been running the shows using generators as the power supply to the rest of the mall has been cut off,” claims a theatre employee.
The winter paradise
Chandigarh’s Sector 17, known as the heart of the city, also faced a major challenge with the rise of Elante. However, many city residents have reverted to the plaza to avoid the chaos at the mall and enjoy the openness.
“The retail shops saw a 30-35 percent drop in 2013 but have picked up and are back in the business. There is also a bigger parking coming up that will bring a drastic change,” says Manish Jain, 46, a chartered accountant and the owner of Adidas store in Sector 17. “I used to be here in my college days and still like to come here. There is a colourful vibe in this open space that is missing in a closed multi-storeyed building. There’s nothing like taking a stroll here on a sunny winter afternoon,” says Surbhi Jain, 51, a housewife who hails from Ambala.