Shoppers are cautiously optimistic about the change that is to come. Due to the several months in lockdown, many are feeling antsy, and this is a breath of fresh air for them. However, they are concerned about the possible risks, despite efforts from mall owners.
“I will wear my mask and practice social distancing, but many people might not follow the same. A lot of people, even now on the road, will leave their mask around their neck. Social distancing is something a lot of people are not practising properly. IT’s everyone’s responsibility moving forward, but I am going to be careful,” said Puja C, a local.
Mall owners are following the standard operating procedures as set by the government. Many malls are establishing strict sanitisation guidelines at entrances, as well as establishing strict security systems. Ground staff have been issued strict instructions to enforce mask and social distancing norms. “We will be letting in only 13,500 people at a time despite having the space to accommodate more. We have also established Artificial Intelligence software to monitor how many customers will be in the mall at all times. We also have screens in the mall to remind patrons of the social distancing norms and the number of patrons in the mall at the time,” said Pooja Patti, centre director, Phoenix MarketCity and Palladium. However, cinema halls remain closed, which poses as a problem for shoppers in the city, said retailers. Shopping in the city is a package experience, they said, with many choosing to come to the mall for an outing of entertainment, food and shopping. The closure of the same might cause a dip in sales, they said. “This first week will be important, because shoppers will take this time to scout out the safety measures in malls before they come. I predict that window shopping and leisure shopping will go down by a huge amount. Most people will come with specific needs. They will buy what they need, and leave,” said a general manager at a make-up retailer in a local mall.
This is an important time for retailers to make up the profits of the year, said Suhail Sattar, chairman, Chennai chapter of the Retailers Association of India. “In the clothing industry in particular, many people have made around 40 to 50% of their profits for the year already. We are hoping, especially with the holiday season coming up, that we can match the sales of last year. It is now time to restart the economy, but while keeping safety as paramount,” he said.