Shopping in the Age of the Pandemic: Shopping Mall vs High Streets, who has the upper hand?

The industry needs a long term back up plan from the government to recover from the current situation which is the second largest contributor to the country’s GDP.

By Surjit Singh Rajpurohit

As the spread of COVID-19 continues to dominate the public realm, shopping malls are preparing to take measures to keep shopping space safe in order to keep customers safe. After more than two months of confinement, few shopping centers in the country reopened their shutters on June 8, embracing the new normal. Many malls are hoping to reopen and urge the government to consider the plea. The current situation has caused a huge breach in the retail trade, the immediate effects of which are huge losses of income and jobs. If the current situation persists, it will have a devastating effect on the economy. Data from SCAI (Shopping Centers Association of India) indicates that there are 650 large shopping centers contributing over Rs 180,000 crore in sales with 1,000 smaller shopping centers contributing Rs 50,000 crore to sales in the retail sector. organized retail.

With the safety, hygiene and well-being of customers being the first priority of shopping centers, all measures are followed to ensure the safety of customers and go the extra mile to give customers the assurance that the shopping center is a safe place to shop. Part of which involves redesigning the traditional ways of doing things and changing the daily workings of life to stay safe from Covid 19. To reduce the risk of the spread of Covid -19 in elevators, an innovative new concept is introduced: the pedals in the elevators. Customers can choose the floor with pedals instead of using the hands.

Another innovative measure that helps prevent the spread of the virus is a new technology called Face Bot. Face Bot machines scan the temperature and detect customers’ faces without any human taking the temperature manually. This technology not only takes the temperature and detects the face, it also denies entry to pedestrians with a temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius and those not wearing a face mask.

What is the new standard in the mall

  • Restricted shopping hours
  • Wearing a mask will be mandatory for customers, mall staff and retail staff
  • Hand and foot sanitizers and temperature controls at all entrances
  • It will be mandatory for all customers and staff to have the Aarogya Setu app
  • Social distancing protocols, maintaining a minimum distance of 2 meters
  • Vacant spaces between customers and partition at food court and restaurants
  • Use of contactless payments
  • Limit the number of people entering the mall
  • Closure of fitting rooms and removal of demonstration areas

The road ahead

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

Build buyer’s confidence

Visitors to the mall seek reassurance and safety measures visible at the mall. Consumers are suspicious, but they still have needs. The mall will have to adapt to the new normal by taking every precaution to ensure that their customers are safe and at their convenience. Since shopping malls are primarily experience centers rather than simple stores, they will always attract a lot of shoppers. So it is absolutely necessary for shopping centers to create a safe environment and make changes as needed. They should also ensure that mall staff and retailers also adhere to the SOPs. If necessary, the layout will need to be changed as well as the seating arrangement to maintain social distancing in the mall.

The most suitable shopping centers for a safe and hygienic shopping environment compared to main streets

Currently, strict measures are being taken to limit the spread of the virus. Given this situation, shopping malls are best suited to implement strict protocols for crowd control, ensuring that social distancing standards are met to provide a safe and hygienic physical shopping space for shoppers. . Shopping malls are well run places unlike High Street. The ability of malls to enforce protocols is much more efficient than High Street.

What makes malls safer for shopping than the high streets?

  • Appropriate SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) strictly followed by visitors, mall staff and retailers
  • Screening of all visitors and staff for temperature and face shield
  • Distance markers installations throughout the shopping center.
  • Regular disinfection of customer contact points and fumigation
  • Limit the number of people entering the mall
  • Closure of fitting rooms and removal of the demonstration area
  • Emergencies for the isolation of suspected cases
  • Restricted toilet policy
  • Controlled use of parking space

Mall and retailers will need to work together

During these difficult times, shopping malls and the retailer need to work together to ensure a safe shopping environment for shoppers. Tenants of shopping centers are organized retailers and therefore will adhere to all rules and best practices. Retailers will need to look for ways to deliver a contactless shopping experience. For clothing, they may consider having virtual testing rooms. When it comes to food, they may have fewer tables, phone menus, and cutlery that are UV disinfected. Retailers need to be equipped with modern Point Of Sale (POS) to make the customer journey safe, easy and efficient.

Government support and financial relief

The organized retail industry has been in distress since the lockdown and for little, survival is on the line. According to (SCAI) the Shopping Center Association of India (SCAI) – in the past two months, the organized retail sector has suffered losses of over Rs 90,000 crore and large-scale unemployment is a real possibility in the future.

The industry needs a long term back up plan from the government to recover from the current situation which is the second largest contributor to the country’s GDP. There should be an interest subsidy and default relief. The retail industry is going through difficult times and without government support it would be difficult to get back on track.

Safety and convenience will be the mantra for a successful customer experience. With this in mind, shopping centers take all necessary measures to ensure a safe experience for all. A safe, hygienic and controlled physical shopping space will be the new standard you will see in shopping malls.

(The author is the founder of IDEAS Consultancy & Advisory Services, and COO, Amanora Mall, Pune. The opinions expressed are personal.)

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Peggy P. Gilmore