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Haryana

Malls reopen after 3-month pause, shoppers still missing

July 02, 2020 06:59 AM

COURTESY HT JULY 2

Malls reopen after 3-month pause, shoppers still missing
TEPID RESPONSE: Safety was the priority, with visitors being made to follow social distancing, wear masks and sanitise their hands frequently

A view of the deserted Ambience Mall in DLF Phase-3 near Delhi-Gurugram border, after it reopened to residents on Wednesday. parveen kumar/ ht photo
Kartik Kumar

kartik.kumar@htlive.com

Gurugram : Malls in the city sputtered back to life on Wednesday, after a three month pause owing to the raging Covid-19 pandemic, which has so far infected 5463 people in Gurugram and killed 92. On Day One of their reopening, however, most malls experienced a thin footfall.

The district administration had directed a shutdown of all malls in the city on March 18 after the city started reporting a surge in Covid-19 cases.

On Wednesday, safety was the first priority for all the malls that reopened its gates, with visitors being made to follow norms of social distancing, wearing masks, undergoing thermal scanning and sanitizing hands outside every store. Guards and other mall staff were deployed in PPE kits, face shields, masks, and hand gloves. Cinema halls and play area for children inside these malls continue to remain shut.

Malls located on Golf Course Road, MG Road, and Sohna Road, reported around 20% of the usual footfall on Wednesday, according to their managements, with a significant number of shops opting to wait and watch for now and voluntarily remaining shut.

At Ambience Mall, however, the footfall was marginally higher and most shops were open in the building. Most visitors cited ongoing discount offers, especially in clothing and shoe stores, as the main reason for people flocking to the mall .

Last Friday, the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh had said that malls would reopen in Gurugram without citing a timeline. Subsequently, on Sunday, the standard operating procedure (SOP) issued by the Haryana government permitted malls to reopen from July 1 onwards.

Mall associations on MG Road and Golf Course Road said they expect the footfall to be significantly low in the first month of operations, as many people will be initially sceptical about stepping out amid the coronavirus outbreak. They, however, hoped that the situation starts to improve afterwards.

“We weren’t expecting any footfall at all in the first few weeks as we got no time to advertise and inform residents that the malls had reopened. We ourselves didn’t know how many stores would reopen on Wednesday and the entire day was largely spent in disinfecting and sanitising establishments that opened up. It will take some time for us to regain the trust of visitors and for them also to get accustomed to the habit of venturing outdoors once again,” said Aman Bajaj, a member of MGF Metropolitan Mall Association. The mall is located at Mall Mile on MG Road.

Bajaj said that in July they are expecting to do 40% of the total business that they used to do before the pandemic set in. From August onwards,when the festival season commences, they expect to do more than 60% business . He further said that around 15% stores in the mall were closed on Wednesday and those that had opened reported shortage in staff.

At South Point Mall on Golf Course Road, barring two supermarkets which had remained open throughout the lockdown period, the building appeared to be deserted. Association members said that though around 100 out of the 180 stores opened to the public on Wednesday, footfall was less than 15% of what it used to be before the lockdown.

“Besides the two supermarkets, we experienced extremely low turnout on the first day. We had anticipated this to be the situation. We ensured that those who did visit the mall felt safe and secure with the sanitising and disinfecting operations. We want visitors to feel confident to return again and also bring their family and friends along the next time. A large number of our regular visitors just enquired about which stores have reopened and said they will be coming in the next few days. We are anticipating a much higher footfall over the weekend,” said Shobha Sengupta, president of South Point Condominium Association.

Rakesh Kapoor, a resident of DLF5, who was among the few who visited the mall on Wednesday said the visible precautions taken at the establishment served as a reassurance for him.

“I actually needed to get my spectacles fixed from the regular store that I go to located in this mall. So this was an unavoidable outing for me. I was concerned about venturing out like this because Gurugram is still reporting a high number of coronavirus cases daily. However, having witnessed the measures being taken at the mall , I came back reassured to some extent,” said Kapoor.

He said that the staff was wearing protective gear, such as face shields and masks, and he was asked to sanitise his hands using the automatic sanitizer dispenser at the entrance and then again before entering the shop. “The staff was roaming around sanitising every nook and corner of the mall. I guess this is something we have to get used to, at least for the next few months,” he said.

Sengupta further said that as almost all the shops in the mall were unable to do business for more than three months, around 10 shops had to permanently shut down owing to financial constraints. She, however, said that the remaining are expected to open within the next two weeks.

In contrast, at Ambience Mall, officials of Ambience Private Limited said that more than 70% of the stores were open and they had a much higher turnout than anticipated. Ambience Mall officials said that around 5,000-7,000 people visited the mall on Wednesday, which is around. 20-25% of the footfall they used to receive before the Covid-19 pandemic. The footfall figures for other malls was not immediately available.

“More than 70% of the stores were open today and we are expecting around 90% of our stores to open by the end of this week. Throughout the day, especially between 2 pm-4 pm, the footfall remained strong despite it being a weekday,” an official representative of Ambience Private Limited said.

Visitors to the mall said that sale offers in major clothing and shoe stores were among top reasons why they ventured to the mall.

“I buy all my clothes from a particular multinational apparel company that has a store in Ambience Mall. They had a 60-70% sale in their clothing range today. I thought it will be a good time to buy clothes as they will be cheaper. Plus I expected very few people to be present, because of which more options would be available for me,” said Sahil Sharma, a resident of sector 4.

On Tuesday, MCG had directed its enforcement wing to visit malls to ensure all visitors and mall staff were abiding by the SOPs laid out by the state government . Violators were to be fined. Hariom Attri, joint commissioner, MCG said that, despite random and surprise visits of all malls, not a single challan was issued on the first day.

“The footfall across all malls in the city was extremely low. Hence, there was little to no scope for people to flout norms. Even I visited some malls at random and found everything to be in order. We had held regular meetings with mall associations in the last few days and had cautioned them about the repercussions if rules were flouted,” said Attri

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