It has been a long and tough year for many in India and the festive season has been a welcome respite to the year. Shopping Centres saw an encouraging trend where customers started coming back and this showed in their sales recovery.
“Our sales touched 80 percent of the last year sales across our portfolio for the festive season. Our footfall recovery has been slower than consumption but the share of wallet per customer had increased significantly. We witnessed growth across all the categories during the festive season. The recovery has been the slowest for the multiplexes as there were very few new releases and no new content that was coming out. Once the new cinemas release, we are expecting this category also to significantly pick-up,” says Rohit George, Managing Director, Virtuous Retail.
Consumer sentiments are changing with new announcements on the vaccine for past few days and people have started visiting the malls for shopping, entertainment and family dinners. Retailers were optimistic towards festive season and stores were equally stocked up to welcome festivities. Winter season sales have also been encouraging among many retailers.
“Customers definitely are less fearful now. The festive season and most specifically the holiday season around Christmas have always been one of the most happening and busy time at Infiniti Mall. We always go all out in spreading the festive cheer for people from all walks of life. This year specifically was not as per usual; but, ever since opening, we have seen a gradual revival and it is only going upward as we move ahead,” states Mukesh Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, Infiniti Mall.
Sales Start Picking Up
Sales recovery and footfalls have been seeing a steady month-on-month uptick since October’20. Categories such as CDIT (consumer electronics, durables, IT and telephones), footwear, beauty and occasion wear have recovered better than other categories showcasing positive growth on YOY basis.
“Sales have surely improved in festive season, but they are average as compared to the pre-Covid levels with winter kicking in, many categories have experience 90-100 percent pre-Covid numbers such as women cosmetics, winter wear, active sports and accessories, etc., but there are other categories are slowly recovering,” says Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Group.
“Conversion rates are up by 30+ percent which we see as a positive sign going into the coming quarters. We are approaching pre-Covid average sales in the next couple of months. Many customers are coming online for buying assistance, followed by visiting the campus for touch and feel prior to purchase,” adds Mahesh M, CEO, Creaticity.
The malls have reached 80-85 percent of pre-Covid performance. This is because of the strict following of hygiene and sanitization protocols. Regular cleaning interventions, floor markings and indicators for proper social distancing, temperature check at the mall entry and in every store and availability of hand sanitizers, from big things to the nitty-gritty; all aspects of safety is practiced at the malls. This cultivated confidence in shoppers; when they see all the rules in place, they can shop without worry.
“Segments like apparel, electronics, skincare, sportswear, groceries, home décor and anchor stores are doing quite well. On the other hand, accessories, salons and cinemas are picking up too,” Arjun Gehlot, Director, Ambience Mall states.
New Store Openings
Malls Undergo Digital Makeover
During pandemic, malls have embraced technology to ensure smooth operations and to reach out to customers. They have been providing options like pre-booking for mall visits, contactless dining and payment solutions, along with turning omnichannel to attract consumers back to malls.
“Technology has enabled us to stay connected with our customers at all touch points. To create an enhanced customer experience at Growel’s 1O1, we have introduced contactless food ordering, payment and billing option with Zoop for the foodcourt. We will also be introducing technologies like digital software’s for customer relationship management, feedback management for customers as well as retailers, retailer satisfaction index, operations checklist digitisation, interactive LED pods for navigation, feedback management and advertising, among others,” states Sachin Dhanawade, Chief Operating Officer (COO) - Retail & Real Estate, Grauer & Weil (India) Limited.
“It’s a fact that people are hesitant to step out in the wake of COVID-19 anxiety and fear, which is why online furniture buying picked pace during the lockdown period. Therefore, to serve customers more seamlessly, we have launched our e-commerce website and deployed Beagle, which is our customer lead and relationship management tool to help us keep in touch with customers and serve them accordingly. There is a personal interaction virtually after which customers are encouraged to visit the mall and yes, we have seen progressive growth in month-month footfalls as the relaxation norms improved sentiment,” adds Mahesh M.
Similarly, Virtuous Retail has developed a digital mobile application for the VR F&B ecosystem that digitizes the entire consumer journey for purchase across any of the F&B outlets and a delivery mechanism that offers the customers the flexibility of multi-restaurant ordering from the comfort of their home.
“We’re in the pilot phase in Chennai and Bengaluru now. We hope this hyperlocal delivery model will support our immediate catchments, and will soon be evolving into a suite of services across the centres. In some of our centres, even the customer registrations for the shopping festivals are done through micro-websites, wherein the shopper can seamlessly scan a QR code and upload the images of their shopping bills,” states George.
A few malls like Ambience Malls, Viviana Mall are using WhatsApp to connect to consumers and in turn, consumers can view products available in-store through video call or pictures and order via chat.
“Our loyalty program has also got a digital makeover. Consumer just need to upload their bills at the digital kiosk and their loyalty points get credited,” Rima Kirtikar, Chief Marketing Officer, Viviana Mall shares.
Retail: On The Way To Glory
Though vaccination drives have started globally, the situation may take some more time to completely settle. Depending how the pandemic plays out now retailers are being extremely cautious and are hoping that by mid 2021 they start showing positive growth
“As we are still recovering from our last year’s performance, we expect the market to be at the peak from June’21, with end of season sales,” says Bansal.
“Our January 2021 numbers have been pretty good and multiple centres in our portfolio have shown recovery to levels higher than pre-Covid numbers. We believe that the recovery is just around the corner if we continue at the current trends,” concludes George.