Brand- and mall-owners as well as their retailers have a massive problem on their hands: slowing sales and decreasing footfalls. Even extended ‘sale’ periods are not helping much.
So, mall-owners are increasing promotions and other kinds of customer engagement activities – think flash mobs and such – to pull in consumers.
What were weekend programmes in the past have now become seven-days-a-week essentials for malls. Singing and dancing shows are still popular, but the range of mall activities has broadened. Now, hobby classes, wrestling programmes, robot-making workshops, reflexology sessions and massages are all part of the mall experience.
So are painting / sketching, building blocks and other talent competitions for kids. Of course, flash mobs continue to sway the shoppers.
Anupam Yog, marketing director of Virtuous Retail, has been planning to hold film festivals to entice brand-chasers into visiting malls. “If the consumer comes and spends time at the mall, it will likely convert into sales.”
Other mall-owners concur. Surjit Singh Rajpurohit, CEO of Neptune Magnet Mall at Bhandup, a northeastern suburb of Mumbai, said he has intensified customer engagement activities since January.
Result? Footfalls at Neptune have increased by 70% since January. But Neptune, it seems, is an exception to the rule of almost deserted shopping alleys.
In fact, empty malls have been finding it difficult to attract big brands which only perpetuates the problem – for, consumers tend to steer clear of malls bereft of famous labels.
An Assocham survey in December last year had revealed that almost half of the malls in India are empty.
The survey pointed out that more than 47% of the total mall space in nine cities is vacant.
Delhi-NCR topped the list at 55%, followed by Mumbai (52%), Ahmedabad (51%), Chennai (50%) and other cities.
Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, the Retailers Association of India, said, “This is at a time when there is intense competition not only among brands but various malls. So, in order to woo big brands, mall developers have to make sure that footfalls pick up, which can happen if activities increase.”
And so, many malls have been developing their own loyalty programmes, something that was earlier limited only to big retailers.
Santosh Pandey of Growel’s 101 said the chain of malls has started its own loyalty programme, besides increasing marketing activities. Consumer response has been “phenomenal”, he said. “In order to ensure that customers stay loyal to us, we offer them free parking space, preview to sales, cash back facility and so on. This has really boosted sales, especially of food items.”
Another aspect of malls’ survival quest is their slow transformation into entertainment destinations, not just shopping centres. This is the way forward for malls, said Nirzar Jain, vice-president, Oberoi Malls.