The festival season this year will surely not be the same for shopping malls across the country. While the usual brand activations, high decibel contests and games that one sees in malls during festivals will be absent this year, mall owners are nevertheless trying their best to woo consumers to come to shop. After all, over 50 per cent of a mall's business comes during the festival season.
While communication on the safety and hygiene standards is a given, mall owners are partnering with retail brands to offer a host of freebies this year. All of them are doing lucky draws wherein the winners could win cars, jewellery, consumer durables and mobile phones. The Oberoi Mall in Mumbai, for instance, organised a Shop and Win contest, where all its patrons who shopped for Rs 5,000 or more participated in a lucky draw, in which two participants could win gift vouchers worth Rs 25,000, while Infiniti Mall in Mumbai has a Shop and Win contest, where it would be rewarding customers who shop for over Rs 1 lakh with a holiday package. Similarly, Select Citywalk Mall in NCR, is trying its best to improve footfalls at its F&B outlets, by giving away Rs 500 food vouchers to all its patrons.
Almost all the malls are making their loyalty programmes more attractive this festival season. Viviana Mall in Thane for instance has announced that it would give out gold coins to its patrons who shop over a certain amount. "Our loyal customers need to be rewarded, therefore we are going to double the reward points that we usually offer. The shoppers at Oberoi Mall will earn assured 2X (2%) reward points on shopping at all brands," explains Anuj Arora, General Manager, Oberoi Mall.
Mall operators are hoping that the festive season will help them get closer to their pre-COVID sales numbers. Select Citywalk, CEO and Executive Director, Yogeshwar Sharma, says that while footfalls have seen a recovery of close to 40 per cent, sales are at 65-68 per cent of pre-COVID levels. "Beauty brands are at 80 per cent of pre-COVID levels, while consumer durables have seen a 100 per cent recovery. The worst hit are formal clothes and shoes. Even restaurants are taking time to revive as their seats are reduced by less than half due to social distancing norms."
Mukesh Kumar, CEO, Infiniti Malls, claims that the mall's sales in August was 45 per cent of last August, while in October it was 66 per cent of last year. "We are betting on the festival season to get us back to pre-COVID levels. This quarter is going to be crucial for us. If we do well in this quarter, we will be safe."
Regular rentals continue to be a challenge for the mall operators. While most of them claim they didn't get any rentals during the lockdown, they have had to settle down at 25-30 per cent lower rentals after they opened up. "We are waiting for sales to reach close to 100 per cent of pre-COVID levels, only then can we ask for regular rentals," says Sharma of Select Citywalk. Infiniti Malls, says Kumar, will revisit its rental negotiations post October 31. "We have given our tenants rent discounts till end of October and 25 per cent lower common area maintenance fee."
The festival season will be a test not just for the mall owners but retailers too. Infiniti's Kumar says that a lot of them will take a call on whether to continue being in malls depending on the kind of response they get during the festival season. Sharma of Select Citywalk is skeptical too. "The festive season may give a blip, but the fourth quarter will be the real test. The performance in that quarter will give us an idea of how to deal with retailers and rentals," he says.