When high-street retailers take to malls

R. Ravikumar Chennai | Updated on April 09, 2013 Published on April 09, 2013

Phoenix Market City, in Chennai. Photo : Bijoy Ghosh   -  Business Line

A recent Sunday morning saw traffic pile up on Velachery Main Road, caused by a long queue of cars parked along the road.

Their object: Phoenix Market City, a new mall in the vicinity. The mall was not even fully operational. Chennai’s shoppers, looking for new experiences, have taken to malls and are soaking in the mall culture.

Be it for an evening stroll, a movie, shopping or eating out, people find malls such as Phoenix and Express Avenue the most comfortable places to be in. Cashing in on this trend, many stores are moving into malls.

For example, multi-brand, high-street retailers such as Rmkv, GRT, Malabar Gold and Diamonds, Nathella, Poppat Jamals, Vivek’s and Next are cheek by jowl with high-end exclusive brands’ outlets.

More visitors

Besides getting better visibility, these stores get many more visitors than their counterparts on the high street. Housing them is beneficial to mall owners too, as the right tenant mix is critical to attract people, says Vijay Choraria, Managing Director, Sharyans Resources Ltd, which developed Phoenix mall jointly with the Phoenix Mills group.

"It's a chicken-and-egg kind of relationship. Because of a good retail brand mix, malls attract good footfall; this in turn pulls in more retailers," he asserted.

However, there is a question that remains to be answered yet. Do the growing crowds at malls translate into sales? Or will that just be initial euphoria about shopping in the malls that will wane eventually?

Many retailers feel, with the right mix of retail brands, shops in malls will do way better than their high-street counterparts.

Lifestyle, one of the country’s largest multi-brand store chains, which opened its first store at Alwarpet in Chennai, now has most of its outlets located in malls across the country. It recently opened its 35th outlet in Phoenix mall.

Announcing the launch, the company’s Managing Director, Kabir Lumba said malls are a much better choice than the high street. According to him, stores in malls do a lot better these days. Maybe the ratio of footfall to conversion could be low in comparison, but in absolute terms, a small percentage of a big crowd could be much bigger than a big percentage of a small number, he explained.

Anchor stores

The K. Raheja group’s department store brand Shoppers Stop too has decided to locate its stores in malls — particularly as anchor stores. Govind Shrikhande, Managing Director and Customer Care Associate, Shoppers Stop Ltd, while launching its store at Ramee mall in Chennai said malls offer the convenience of location and comfort - not just for shoppers, but also for retailers. As mall operators take care of the building maintenance and security, retailers are relieved of these worries.

According to V. M. L. Karthikeyan, Director (Marketing), Butterfly Gandhimathi Appliances, malls offer tremendous visibility to product and retail store brands, which also helps increase the number of visitors to their high-street stores. For example, thanks to the presence of Butterfly’s appliances in malls, sales in its standalone stores too have gone up many times, he said.

Greater choice

Bindu Panicker, a hotelier, says she would always prefer malls to high-street stores as there is a greater choice in the former. “If you do not get what you want in one shop, you may find it next door, or at least in another shop in the next floor.” Rahul Chandran, an insurance agent, says besides wider choice, malls offer all under one roof. “Even if you have a whole day at your disposal, you spend it in one mall. Movie hall, shopping, food court and children’s play area – all in the air-conditioned comfort,” he says.

Another shopper says, to top it all, enough parking space is a major advantage in malls. “One can comfortably shop without worrying about his car or bike being towed away by the police,” he says.

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Published on April 09, 2013
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