The idea is to make shoppers feel safe once they enter malls
NEW DELHI/NOIDA: Malls won’t be as cool when they are ready to welcome visitors again from June 8. ACs running at higher than usual temperatures won’t be the only reaosonn.
The swarm and hubbub will be missing because of strict social distancing rules, the retail zones won’t be as strikingly effulgent with many stores closed, and aromas won’t waft down from the restaurant deck to entice you to the upper floors.
Only around half of India’s 550 malls are set to open on June 8 with the rest located in states that are yet to take a call on their reopening. Even then, retailers expect only 40% of mall retail space to be operational, as cinemas, children’s play areas and gaming arcades will remain shut in line with government guidelines.
“We expect 20% of pre-Covid-19 footfalls in the beginning,” said Jane Naik, VP, operations and projects at Nexus Malls. “That would, initially, help us in crowd management.”
Several branded outlets, too, are expected to remain closed, part of a wider pullback by large and small retailers who have not yet reached a conclusion with mall owners on new rental agreements, senior industry executives said.
But mall owners, from DLF and Infiniti to Phoenix and Nexus, who are eager to get back into business, are ready with safety measures, which include mobile apps to monitor entry, and only a fixed number of people being allowed in on the basis of pre-booked time slots. With no manual frisking, visitors are also likely to be asked to remove all metal accessories.
“We have already implemented the SOPs as advised by the government to a T. In fact, we have done more,” said Pushpa Bector, executive director at DLF Shopping Malls, which runs Mall of India in Noida, one of the largest retail spaces in the country. “We expect to the get permission to reopen soon.” The Noida administration has not taken a decision on opening malls yet.
Once inside, shoppers will not be allowed to walk in groups. Use of escalators will be encouraged, not lifts. While eating, customers will not be allowed to change the positions of their chairs and will have to vacate the table within 15 minutes of finishing their meal as social distancing guidelines limit the number of people that can be present inside an eatery or cafe. Wearing a face mask is mandatory for all.
Inside stores that do open, shoppers can expect more wide open spaces as retailers have been advised to declutter their outlets. While some apparel brands have decided to do away with trial rooms, as reported by TOI earlier, others have advised their staff to avoid looping belts into bottoms, as it might increase the risk of spread of the virus.
“Implementing the measures is not very expensive,” said Mukesh Kumar, CEO of Infiniti Mall. “The idea to make shoppers feel safe once they enter malls.”
There will be thermal scanners at entry points. The ACs will run in the mid-20s, air filters will be cleaned every alternate day, only one person will be allowed in every 75 sqm of floor space. “Sanitising frequently will be a part of our routine now,” said Bector. Rules of escalator use will change too. “We will implement a three-step rollover for escalators, foot traffic control at the entrance, have permanent distance markers and keep seats in common areas distant from one another. To be able to manage the flow, visitors will be asked to book time slots, golden hours,” said Shibly Khan, general manager (operations), Mall of India.
Gaur City Mall in Noida Extension will be using a mobile app to monitor entry and flow. “The guidelines are out, and it is for every person to follow. On our part, we have introduced thermal checking and sanitisation tunnels at every point of entry. Masks will be mandatory, sanitisers will be available all over,” said Manoj Gaur, managing director of Gaursons and owner of Gaur City Mall.
TGIP and Logix Mall in Noida said they are waiting for district-specific guidelines. “Sanitisation has started but the preventive measures will be implemented in keeping with government order when the final SOP comes from the local administration,” said Shamim Anwar, spokesperson for TGIP.