Shopping in the era of pandemic: Shopping Mall vs High Streets, who has the upper hand?

July 7, 2020 4:49 PM

The industry requires a long term relief plan from the government to revive from the current situation which is the second biggest contributor to the country’s GPD.

Currently strict measures are taken to curtail the spread of the virus.Currently strict measures are taken to curtail the spread of the virus.

By Surjit Singh Rajpurohit

As the spread of the COVID-19, continues to dominate the public domain, shopping malls are gearing up to speed on the measures to keep the shopping space safe to secure the customers. After more than two months of lockdown, few shopping malls in the country reopened their shutters on 8th June embracing the new normal. Many shopping malls are hoping to reopen, and urging the government to consider the plea. Current situation has caused a huge dent in retail trade, immediate effect of which are huge loss of revenues and jobs. If the current situation prevails further, it will have a devastating effect on the economy. A data from SCAI (Shopping Centres Association of India) indicates that there are 650 large shopping centres that contribute over Rs 180,000 crore in sales with 1000 plus smaller shopping centres contributing another Rs 50,000 crore to the sales of the organised retail sector.

Safety, hygiene and wellbeing of the customers being the first priority for the shopping malls, all the measures are followed to keep the patrons safe and going the extra mile to build the assurance of the patrons that the mall is a safe place to shop. Part of which involves redesigning traditional ways of doing things and changing daily functioning of life to stay safe from Covid 19. To reduce the risk of spread of Covid -19 in Elevators, a new innovative concept is introduced –Foot Pedals in the elevators. Customers can chose the floor with foot pedals instead of using hands.

Another innovative measure which helps to prevent the spread of virus is a new technology called Face Bot. Face Bot machines scans the temperature and detects the customers face without any human manually taking the temperature. This technology not only takes temperature and detects the face, it also denies entry to the pedestrians whose temperature is above 37.5 degree Celsius and those who are not wearing a face mask

What is the new New Normal in the Mall

  • Restricted Shopping hours
  • Wearing masks to be compulsory for the customers, mall staff and retail staff
  • Hand, foot sanitisers and temperature checks at all the entrances
  • It will be mandatory for all customers and the staff to have Aarogya Setu App
  • Social distancing protocols, maintaining minimum 2 meters distance
  • Vacant seats between patrons and partition at the food court and restaurants
  • Use of contactless payments
  • Limiting the number of people entering the mall
  • Closure of fitting rooms and removal of demo areas

The Road ahead

The road ahead will be rough for all. We all are learning to live with Covid -19 embracing the new normal.

Build up Shopper’s confidence

Mallgoers are looking for reassurance, and visible safety measures at the mall. Consumers are wary but they still have needs. The mall will have to adapt to the New Normal by taking all the precautions to make sure that their patrons are safe along with their convenience. Shopping malls primarily being experience centre rather than plain shopping will always entice many buyers. It makes it absolutely necessary for the shopping malls to create a safe environment and make changes as per the need. They also have to ensure that the mall staff and the retailers are also adhering to the SOP’s. If required the layout will have to tweaked along with the seating arrangements to maintain social distancing in the mall.

Shopping Malls best suited for Safe, Hygienic Shopping Environment vs High Streets

Currently strict measures are taken to curtail the spread of the virus. Given this situation, Shopping malls are best suited to implement strict protocols to control the crowd, making sure social distancing norms are followed to provide a safe, hygienic physical shopping space to the shoppers. Shopping Malls are well managed places unlike High Street. The ability of shopping malls to enforce protocols is far more efficient than High Street.

What makes Shopping Malls safer place to shop than High Streets

  • Proper SOP (Standard Operation Procedure) strictly being followed by the visitors, mall staff and the retailers
  • Screening of all visitors and staff for the temperature and facemask
  • Distance markers installations across the mall.
  • Regular sanitization of customer touch-points and fumigation
  • Limiting the number of people entering the mall
  • Closure of fitting rooms and removal of demo area
  • Emergency rooms for isolation of suspected cases
  • Restricted restroom policy
  • Controlled use of parking space

Mall and Retailers will have to work together

During such tough times Malls and the Retailer have to work together ensuring safe shopping environment to the shoppers. The tenants in malls are organised retailers and hence they will abide by all the rules and best practices. Retailers will have to look at ways of providing contact- less shopping experience. For apparel, they can look at having virtual trial rooms. When it comes to fine dining, they can have fewer tables, menus on phones and cutlery which are uv sanitized. Retailers should be equipped with modern POS (Point Of Sale) to make the customer’s journey safe, easy and efficient.

Government Support and Financial Relief

The organised retail industry is in distress since lockdown and for few the survival is at stake. According to (SCAI) Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI)- over the last two months, the organised retail industry has suffered losses of over Rs 90,000 crore and large-scale unemployment is a real possibility in the future.

The industry requires a long term relief plan from the government to revive from the current situation which is the second biggest contributor to the country’s GPD. There should be interest subsidy and default relief. The retail industry is witnessing a tough time and without government support it would be difficult to get back on the track.

Safety and convenience will be the mantra for successful customer experience. Keeping that in mind, Shopping Malls are taking all the necessary measures to ensure a safe experience for everyone. Safe, Hygienic and controlled physical shopping space will be the new normal which you will get to see in the shopping malls

(The autor is Founder IDEAS Consultancy & Advisory Services, and COO, Amanora Mall, Pune. Views expressed are personal.)

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