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with very few or no retailers and continue to struggle for occupancy. “Except for Alpha One (Gujarat’s biggest mall located in Vastrapur) and Iscon Mega mall, most mall owners in Ahmedabad continue to struggle. The vacancy level in some of the malls is as high as 60-70 per cent,” says Tomar.
Retailers Association of India CEO Kumar Rajagopalan says that malls built like a real estate business only meant for resale to investors “have been exposed and found wanting across the country”. “Malls without infrastructural or mall management efficiencies are forced to shut down thanks to poor economic viability,” he says.
Many brands have, thus, moved from the malls to “shopping streets” such as CG Road, Law Garden, Prahladnagar and Satellite Road. Dotted with standalone stores of national and international brands, these streets are now preferred over malls by many a Gujarati customer for whom shopping is more a functional exercise than entertainment. Rohini Joshi, a 52-year-old homemaker who lives a stone’s throw away from superstores like V-mart and Reliance Fresh in central Ahmedabad, relates her shopping experience. “We earlier used to go to malls and superstores even for our daily groceries. But we realised that we not only overshot our budgets, we also ended up wasting. Now we prefer our neighbourhood grocer who caters exactly to our limited daily requirements and that too at price-points that are below the MRP. I also feel that the vegetables and fruits supplied by the neighbourhood vendor are fresher than those available in air-conditioned retail stores and malls.”
Experts also point to lopsided development of retail in Ahmedabad as a cause for concern. Shopping hubs are concentrated in the western part, which has the highest purchasing power. But that has also led to saturation there, and competition has killed many a mall such as Gallops and Piramyd. As bulldozers bring down the once shiny glasses and pillars of Gallops mall, the management of NG Group that has taken over it is readying a plan to build a five-star hotel on its site. “There is an overcrowding of malls in western Ahmedabad; a hotel makes more