Week after reopening, malls bear deserted look in Gurugram
On July 1, the Haryana government permitted malls to reopen in the city, after a gap of more than three months.Updated: Jul 09, 2020 14:35 IST
Though it has been a week since malls reopened in the city, business is yet to pick up, say managers of stores and malls, with the overall footfall remaining 15-20% of the usual. Factors such as cinema halls, which bring their own set of footfall, still being closed, apprehensions about venturing outdoors as number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases rise, and a lack of awareness about malls having reopened, due to absence of proper advertising, may be why patrons are keeping away, they said.
The district administration ordered malls to shut down from March 18 when the city’s first Sars-Cov-2 cases began to surface. The government’s order, however, said that cinema halls would continue to remain closed, which, according to which mall association members and shopkeepers, is affecting their business.
“The government has not given us permission to reopen cinema halls. The food court and the limited number of restaurants at our mall are also yet to reopen. As a result, there is no major draw for people to come. Although more than 90% of stores of the mall have now reopened, people are visiting only to purchase specific things from selected stores. Our footfall, hence, continues to remain extremely low and as of now is around 15% less than usual,” said Aman Bajaj, a member of the MGF Metropolitan Mall Association. The shopping centre is located on the Mall Mile.
He added that the decision of reopening of malls by the government was sudden and gave them less than five days to prepare.
“In the five days between reopening the mall, we were busy ensuring all shops are properly disinfected and sanitised, apart from ensuring that necessary safety equipment is procured and the staff is well informed about the enforcement of safety protocols. We are still getting used to this. As a result, we have had no time to advertise and inform people that malls have reopened. Without any advertisement and marketing, many people may not even be aware that we are open,” said Bajaj.
On the first day of reopening, around 30-40% of stores were closed across all arcades in the city.
Arjun, a member of the management at the CCDS store, which sells baking and kitchen goods at South Point Mall located on the Golf Course Road, said business as of now is at less than 20% of what it was earlier. He added that with the building not having any food court or cinema hall even prior to the lockdown, those who visited were a niche crowd.
Apart from this, at least eight stores here have closed down during the lockdown. Barring two supermarkets, the rest of the plaza appeared to be deserted, with most shops having little to no visitors.
“We anyway had a very niche crowd of visitors, even before the lockdown. Now, due to the disease outbreak, almost everyone is reluctant to step outside and, as a result, there is barely any footfall here. We saw a marginal improvement of about 5% in sales over the weekend but our business continues to be at 20% of what it used to be. We are not expecting the situation to improve anytime soon,” said Arjun.
At the city’s popular Ambience Mall, despite seeing higher footfall than other plazas on weekends, business is far below the usual mark. Officials of Ambience Private Limited, though, said that with the “right kind of marketing” and more stores reopening by next week, they are hoping to attract more visitors.
“Since reopening, on weekdays, we are witnessing an average footfall of 5,000-6,000, and over the weekend it is around 12,000-15,000. Prior to the lockdown, we used to have an average of 35,000-40,000 on weekdays, and around 75,000-90,000 on the weekends. As of now, only 60-70% of the shops have reopened and by next week we are expecting nearly 90% stores to reopen here, which includes food outlets and various brands through which we are expecting to generate a higher footfall. Simultaneously, we are also working on different marketing strategies to first inform people that malls have reopened and that necessary safety protocols are being followed,” said an official representative of Ambience Private Limited, asking not to be named.
The few who have been to the arcades over the last week, however, maintain that despite the fact that they saw precautionary measures in place, they are still apprehensive to venture outdoors unless absolutely necessary.
“I only visited one of the shopping centres on MG Road as I had to replace some parts of my mobile phone from the store I had purchased it from. Although necessary safety measures such as social distancing, temperature and mask check, hand sanitisers at all entry points, etc., were being followed, I am apprehensive from revisiting any time soon as I fear catching the Covid-19 disease. It will take me some time to readjust to the new norm before venturing outdoors more regularly,” said Manish Sinha, a resident of Sector 28.