Malls remain empty as wary citizens stay indoors
The first weekend since malls reopened after a lockdown of over two months did not go as retailers had hoped. Footfall was low as citizens, wary of the rising number of positive cases, remained at home on both Saturday and Sunday.
Anbu Kumar, a parking assistant at a mall, summed it up best. “It was very hard to find parking for even a bike on Sunday evenings. But today, the parking lot is empty.”
Though malls have implemented several precautionary measures, including sanitisation tunnels, mandatory masks and digital payments for contact free shopping, patrons are worried. “Many feel that the city unlocked is more risky than the one under lockdown. There is pressure from within families on those who want to step out,” said Ramesh Babu, a senior manager at a clothing store in a mall in the city.
Not all shops have opened for business, and retailers say that around 30% are still shut. “Business is not viable even with restrictions eased. So many have decided to open their outlets only after footfall improves,” said Mr. Babu.
Uday Garudachar, who owns the chain of Garuda Malls — three in the city and one in Mysuru, said it may be at least a year before business picks up in malls. “For instance, at Garuda Mall off M.G. Road, we did an average business in the range of ₹90 lakh to ₹1.1 crore during weekdays, and ₹1.5 crore to ₹2 crore on weekends. The first day the mall was reopened on June 8, the total business was less than ₹10 lakh, which peaked to around ₹30 lakh on Saturday,” he said. He pegged the business turnover to be 10-15% of pre-COVID times this past week.
The situation is bleak for other malls, too. The few people who visited malls on Sunday said they were frustrated being indoors for several months. “We cannot let COVID-19 to rule us with fear. We need to return to normal lives but with adequate precautions. My parents were apprehensive when we came out today. But there are no people here and it seems safe,” said Shubha R., a resident of Malleswaram.