Shopping malls: the latest venues for kids learning are not only offering sheer convenience and facilities but also helping the mall developers in generating increased footfalls due to its fixed clientele at the same time.
Shopping malls are not restricted to just shopping areas anymore, they are coming up as viable venues for kids learning centers as well. Recently, Singapore-based Julia Gabriel Centre for Learning (JGCL) opted to open its branch at the DLF Place mall located in Saket in south Delhi for children between six months to 16 years. Located at the first floor of the high-end mall, the learning center is equipped with modern facilities and cordoned off from the rest of the shopping centre activities.
The concept of a learning center inside a shopping mall is said to be the first of its kind in the country, where 95 per cent of the market including pre-school and kids centers are dominated by aunty-next-door kind of business model. At present, there are around 11 major chains and approximately 10 smaller players active in the space. According to a recent report on education by Kaizen Management Advisors, pre-schools are estimated to be worth Rs 2,300 crore and the market is expected to grow to Rs 4,600 crore market by 2012.
Until now, most of these pre-schools and similar centers have preferred to be around residential areas as Pradeep Pillai, Head – Strategic Acquisition at Zee Learn says, “We always choose ground floors with a play area in residential colonies.” Lina Ashar, Founder & Chairperson at Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd. also mentioned, “Residential areas can be accessed easily, which is the actual catchment area.”
Convenience and facilities
However, a shopping mall as venue for kids learning centers is attracting all those players who want to explore the space for its convenience and facilities. According to Meenakshi Chibba, MD at Julia Gabriel Center for Learning (JGCL), it is very difficult to get the right property in land blocked cities like Delhi. Besides the space crunch, there is lack of adequate parking area and this is where a mall solves all the problems, she said.
Ashar of Kangaroo Kids says, “We look at venues taking into consideration all the factors involved – accessibility, affordability and safety. In fact, we have a mall model called Kangaplay and are exploring opportunities for this.” Kangaplay was opened at Orchid City Center mall in Mumbai offering pre-school activities and interactive sessions.
She further said, “Our Kangaplay model is specifically developed to address the challenges that having a learning center in a shopping area has. This location category is at a nascent level now; may get to see this increasingly as more and more premium players enter the market.” She believes that working parents would put their children at such centers which are close to their office for the comfort factor and the assurance that the child’s time is being put to good use.
“The opening of the learning center has helped in increasing the footfalls to a certain level. We are getting 500 kids every week. We consider it an excellent concept as while the kids are attending the classes their parents or grandparents who accompany them can indulge themselves to shopping or eating at the mall,” said Vivek Kaul, Head – Retail Leasing at DLF Place Saket.
Kaul further confirmed that the success of the learning center in the mall has generated a lot of inquiry from the mall developers as well as from the clients’ side on how to repeat the concept. Supporting the business concept Munish Baldev, Head Retail at Unitech Group said, “We are open to such kind of business concepts.”
He feels that category based retail such as pharmacy, opticians, banks or learning centers will pull more people as they have a fixed and permanent clientele.
According to Ashwani Sareen, AVP Sales & Marketing for Residential, Commercial an d Retail at Orris Infrastructure Pvt Ltd. feels that the participation would not be as successful as it is perceived. He says, “Mall developers would not be interested in negotiating rentals with an off-retail segment like them because they have to achieve certain average rentals. In case of vanilla stores or an anchor store, even if they do revenue sharing deal, they know if footfalls increase, more revenue will generate. But in case of this kind of business everything is fixed and not much gain will be achieved.”
Meanwhile, Kaul of DLF Saket holds a different opinion. He says, “Rental is also important to us but we being landmark developers, we are more focused towards values and hence we have to come out with unique concepts that can pull people to the mall on a weekly basis.”
Also Baldev of Unitech Group feels that these kinds of learning centers are capital intensive and high on business, therefore, even though the rental might be high they will manage to generate business.
While Pillai at Zee Learn says, “A shopping center is not conducive for a child’s learning or safety of the preschool. An activity center will definitely work but not a full-fledged pre-school.” However, Ashar of Kangaroo Kids opines, “It really depends on the business model of the pre-schools and the demand for such centers. With rising affordability and purchasing power, we may see parents not caring about the pinch in the pocket as long as there is some value in the service provided. For large-format malls, a learning center might not just be another rental client – there are options to make this format viable and we usually work on these.”