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Malling in the time of slump

entertainment Updated: Feb 18, 2009 17:58 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

Happiness can be now bought — on purchases of Rs 10,000.” Can this announcement on a giant hoarding outside Saket’s Select Citywalk mall pep up the subdued mood in this global meltdown season? “I don’t have spare cash for hard-core shopping,” says Amit Chandan, 24, a software engineer who is ‘malling’ with his girlfriend. “People in my office are being fired — who knows what may happen to me?”

It was a different world when this mall was thrown open to Delhiites on October, 2007. Built over more than one lakh square feet, it came up at a time when there were too many things to buy, too much money to spend. The economy was booming. Foreign brands were coming in. Job-hopping was the norm. There were no pink slips. Not so, any longer.

The present mood at the mall, which is also true of all other malls, reflects the feel of the moment. “Recession has affected all sectors,” admits Citywalk CEO Rajiv Duggal, while emphasising that this mall is doing much better than most others. “There has been a dip of 15% but that is also due to the forthcoming exams.”

“On Sundays, the mall floors used to be as crowded as railway platforms,” says a shop assistant in a designer store. Clients’ priorities have changed, too. “Earlier, my rich clients asked me not to bother them with seasonal sales,” she adds, “But now they call and ask, ‘Sweetie, any sale on?’”

On Monday, at 2.07 pm; sale signs call out to buyers from almost every store window, but few have customers. “Monday and Tuesday footfalls have generally been low,” says Duggal. “However, sales have brought in people who aren’t looking at cheap buying but attractive deals.”

Maybe that’s why on Valentine’s Day, the Citywalk parking was full by late afternoon. On Christmas, 75,000 mallrats flocked in to see Delhi’s tallest X-mas tree. And this reporter met three Gargi college girls who spent Rs 1,500 on a KFC meal. “Recession hasn’t affected us,” Ridhima Chopra says. “Mummy Papa ka paisa hai.”

Too bad that Sumantha Roy, an IT pro from Amar Colony, who goes to the mall every week can’t turn to his parents. “When I saw something nice before, I’d buy it. Now, I’d think twice,” he says. Perhaps some clever discount may help him buy his happiness.