India At the times, when eCommerce is booming in India, investors are pouring money into retail mainstays of a bygone era - shopping malls that touted to be least affected by emergence of online shopping. And amidst the cut-throat competition of online and offline, eRetail has impacted the malls in a positive manner, says Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Mall in a candid conversation with Retailer. Bansal also spoke about the resized and revised spacing happening at shopping centres and increasing dominance of F&B and entertainment category in shopping centres.
What is you take on impact of eCommerce on Malls?
It has! It has impacted in a very positive manner as more and more people are learning about new fashion brands through eCommerce. This translates to shopping. They can buy once or twice online, but they will also buy those brands from the malls. Typically not everybody shops all the time at only malls or only online, but both verticals. So online has helped us informing and coaching the consumers about brands available in the market and thus increase footfall.
It is more about technology we use and not the eCommerce. We are taking offers to people through online, apps are being developed and special services are being provided on those apps so that when the customer walks in, we can offer him better services. We are integrating a lot of technology in the management of the centre, rather than translating or doing any sales on eCommerce. I think eCommerce is more of complimentary service and is not going to hamper operations of malls.
Given the changing preferences of consumers, how have you worked on the zoning?
Zoning and tenant mix has been there, it is just that now due to more thrust on F&B and entertainment, malls are devoting more space to these categories. I think consumer also wants this. We, as a shopping centre from 15 per cent space dedicated to food, are taking it up to 25 per cent. From 15-20 per cent area dedicated to entertainment, we are increasing it to 25-30 per cent. We are also increasing our spaces towards food and entertainment. Having said that, we are not ignoring fashion and apparel as we keep churning and bringing newer brands. It is a fine balance that we try to bring in.
F&B has to spread across mall. Of course major restaurants are present at the food court, there are lot of QSRs and cafes spread out evenly in the shopping centre. There is some amount of zoning that has to be done for the food offering but it has to be spread across the total area.
How has been the journey of Pacific India?
We have got three operational centres now – in East Delhi, West Delhi and Dehradoon which are 12 year old, 5 years old and 2.5 years old respectively. All our malls are 95 to 97 per cent occupied.
Dehradoon has been a pleasant surprise for as it a city with population of just 1.5 million. But the opportunity we saw was there was no organized retail in the city and we were fortunate to be at extremely good location. The mall size is right for the city (2.5 lakhs sq ft). There is a hotel inside the mall called Lemon Tree. The mall attracts a footfall of 4 lakhs per month.
How have you reworked on spacing as increased percentage of F&B means shift in other categories?
When we started off, we had a lot of kidswear outlets. We have reduced a bit of those and brought in F&B there. We have reduced the size of our hypermarket, that’s where we are adding more stuff. A few churns that happen, we are downsizing some brands that had more area than required.
Of late a lot of anchor stores have downsized themselves. Is it like they are opting for smaller area to increase per square feet revenue?
I would not say opting for smaller areas, but opting for right size. Over the last decade, brands have understood the kind of area they need in a particular market and accordingly the brands are adjusting to the kind of requirement. We as developers have also learnt to how much area we should dedicate to a format or brand and now we are implementing those learning.
What has been the tenant mix so far?
We have got about 35 per cent international brands. In Dehradoon we have some regional retailers. If you look at West Delhi, the ethnic market is quite strong and hence, we took a decision of not competing with them. So we deliberately went in for international brands which were a conscious decision.
How are you creating consumer experience at your shopping centres?
That is again an year round thing which we keep doing. We do activities like zoomba classes, yoga day, kids carnival etc. there are a few marquee events and we spend about Rs 3 crore per annum for such activities for one centre in Delhi.
Do you offer some sops to the retailers talking space in all three or may be two of the centres?
Not really! Every deal, shop location is different so we try not club anything. Usually we work for tenures of 5 years to 12 years depending on size and format.