The Rs 700-crore acquisition of North Country Mall by Virtuous Retail South Asia Ltd (VRSA) recently has put the spotlight on the state of malls in the tricity of Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali.
Barring Elante Mall in Chandigarh’s Industrial Area Phase 1 that has been a roaring success -- and to some extent the North Country Mall in Mohali -- most other malls in the tricity are struggling for survival. Centra Mall and City Emporium in the vicinity of Elante in Industrial Area Phase 1, Fun Republic in Manimajra, DT in IT Park, TDI in Sector 17, Piccadily Square in Sector 34, Shalimar in Panchkula, Paras Downtown in Zirakpur -– the list of malls taking a fall is long. Barring their cinema halls in these malls, most of them wear a deserted look.
Market analysts blame the slowdown in the market for the downfall of most malls. They say bigger players can afford to take the hit but smaller ones are bound to feel the heat. High rentals have also led to poor occupancy. Limited brand outlets in smaller malls draw a limited clientele, while fewer entertainment and food options don’t attract enough customers. The mushrooming of small malls in the tricity that offer nothing exclusive is another factor that has hit business.
Amid the fall of the malls, Elante still stands tall. Set up by Larsen & Toubro four years ago with an investment of over Rs 1,700 crore, this vibrant shopping hub is home to 235 retail outlets and is a part of a 21.5-acre complex. Despite its capacity to accommodate 6,000 cars, the place is choc-a-bloc with police and the engineering department forced to work overtime to manage the traffic.
“The mall’s daily footfall is about 38,000 on weekdays and 60,000 on weekends that goes up to 1.5 lakh on festival days, says Anil Malhotra, chief operating officer of Carnival, which now owns Elante.
So what’s the secret ? “It could have been any other mall but because of safety and security coupled with the experience at Elante, it’s been a hit. This mall gives you an enhanced experience of all five senses through its aesthetics, smell, music, air-conditioning, and activities happening at all times,” says Malhotra.
The Hyatt hotel complements the mall well as also the office complex that houses the British Council and the Canadian consulate offices.
Built on 22 acres on National Highway 21, the North Country Mall is a favourite with visitors from Mohali and Kharar. With a leasable area of one million square foot, it is anchored by top brands such as H&M, Zara, PVR and Forever 21.
“It’s a beautifully built mall that has the best brands in the region,” says Nitin Bir, vice-president of the mall. “We’ve got brands that are only with us in Punjab and in North India,” says Bir. The mall has an average footfall of 18,000 to 20,000 on weekdays that can rise to anything between 30,000 and 40,000 on weekends.
He declined to give reasons behind the acquisition by VRSA.
- 2003: The year the tricity got its first mall in Fun Republic at Manimajra
- 235 retail outlets in the successful Elante Mall
- 30,000-40,000: Footfall on weekends at North Country Mall
- 38,000 and 60,000: Footfall at Elante Mall on weekdays and weekends. The figure goes up to 1.5 lakh during festivals
- 6,000: The car parking capacity at Elante
- 3: Malls that were cinema halls earlier, namely Jagat now TDI Mall, Dhillon now Fun Republic and Piccadily now Piccadily Square
Apart from these two malls, the rest are struggling for survival. “It’s difficult to sustain business for mall owners because markets are passing through a tough phase. This is not just here but a pan-India or rather a global trend,” says Pankaj Sahgal, a partner at City Emporium.
Having realised that much of the opportunity has been seized by Elante, the mall owners are trying to reinvent. “We are trying to move away from traditional retail to automobiles or food and beverages. We’ve found hope,” Sahgal says.
Perhaps in redefining and being different from the rest, the malls have a chance of survival.
PAST PERFECT, FUTURE TENSE
At the turn of the millennium, the tricity got its first multiplex when the nondescript Dhillon theatre in Manimajra was transformed into a mall-cum-multiplex. With multiple screens and branded stores under one roof in an air-conditioned environment, Fun Republic became the go-to destination. It was a runaway success and became the perfect weekend getaway. A movie experience followed by a relaxed meal with varied choice of cuisines and a game zone, it became the best hangout place.
Crowds dried up at other cinema halls and markets such as Sector 17. The future lay in multiplexes. So cinemas began renovating and turned into malls-cum-multiplexes. But with Elante coming in, the scale of the game changed. Today, smaller malls, including Fun Republic, are staring at an uncertain future. Unless they reinvent, their chances are bleak.