Being a weekday, shopping centres remained deserted on the first day of reopening, but footfalls may not increase anytime soon.

Malls in Hyderabad and Bengaluru remain deserted on first day of shops reopening
Coronavirus Coronavirus Monday, June 08, 2020 - 20:47

On Monday, malls in Hyderabad and Bengaluru threw open their doors to shoppers after nearly three months of remaining closed due to the nationwide lockdown induced by the coronavirus pandemic. 

TNM visited a few popular malls in both the cities to observe the arrangements and the crowds gathered on day one of the shops reopening.

Forum mall in Koramangala on Monday afternoon 

In Hyderabad, many malls wore a deserted look on Monday morning as people stayed away. At Sarath City Capital Mall located on the Gachibowli - Miyapur road, very few shoppers were seen, even as security guards conducted thermal checks on all who entered. 

"We just wanted to buy some clothes. We are still a little worried about eating in the mall. We will make our purchase and go back home," says Fathima Begum, who visited the mall on Monday morning with two other relatives. 

A supermarket in a mall in Bengaluru 

Other shopping centres like Hyderabad Central at Punjagutta and City Centre in Banjara Hills were also relatively empty. 

Inorbit Mall located at Madhapur also made several arrangements to welcome visitors. It will be open from 11 am to 8 pm only and restrictions will be put on entry, to ensure that physical distancing is maintained at all times. 

However, GVK One in Banjara Hills, which is one of most frequented malls in Hyderabad, remained closed on Monday as the management was discussing how to regulate crowds and ensure protection gear for its staff. 

Speaking to PTI, N Parthasaradhy, Vice-President, GVK One, said that the mall will be open to the public from June 10. 

"

Entrance to a mall food court

We have kept single point entry and exit for our staff and retail staff and everybody needs to have an Aarogya Setu App and show that they are safe. If somebody does not have the app, they will have to sign a self-declaration form." Parthasaradhy said.

"Earlier we had four entry points for customers which now we are restricting to two. The 20-person lifts will now be restricted to just six to maintain the physical distance among customers," he added.

In all the malls, masks are compulsory and hand sanitisers have been dispensed to customers at entry points.

In Karnataka, malls opened their gates on Monday for the first time since March 14, after relaxations announced by the state government in Karnataka. 

Being a weekday and with cinemas and play areas closed, shopping centres remained more or less deserted on the first day of reopening. 

Another reason for malls being deserted could be that it was a Monday morning, when most people are working. Malls are often a place of leisure, and not a place one would go for an urgent or necessary purchase. Given that e-commerce has opened up for non-essential orders as well, mall footfall could see an uptick in  later in the day, or over the weekend.

Around 7:30 pm on Monday, Garuda mall, one of the most well known commercial shopping centre's in Bengaluru, which will remain open till 8 pm everyday had 60 percent of its establishments open, but hardly 20 visitors. The building which is undergoing a renovation has one gate open for entry where thermal screening, full body disinfecting and hand sanitising facilities are set up at the entry point.

 

Uday Garudachar, owner of Garuda Malls, said that it has been a slow start to business but there are positives to look forward to. 

“It would seem that people are still very hesitant to come into the malls despite all the precautions. But I heard from my people that by 4 pm, around 120 cars had come to the parking lot. So, going by that, I can tell you that 400-500 people at least came to the mall. But in the days to come, these numbers will definitely improve.”

Speaking to TNM, the manager at a retail chain store inside the mall said that the entire experience of not having visitors in the mall felt new. 

We have hardly had any customers today. We have all the safety measures in place. Our trial rooms are operational partially. We are sanitising the room and touch points after each use. But yeah we have to wait and see to know the actual impact. 

He added that it was difficult to attribute lack of crowds to any one reason. It could be the building renovation, COVID-19 and the fact that it is a weekday.  "It is only the first day. I think it will be at least a week by the time we get to know what is the driving reason," he added

A staffer at Koramangala’s Forum Mall said, “We have not made any calculations as far as footfall is concerned. But we saw many people coming in and they were convinced with our safety precautions. We expect business to pick up steadily as the week progresses.”

In terms of safety precautions, thermal screening and hand sanitization is a common feature found in all these malls. Floor markings are made on elevators and escalators to ensure physical distancing among shoppers and staff. Visible sanitization activity also takes place, with staff regularly disinfecting common touch points such as handrails and door handles.

While some malls like the Garuda and Forum made it mandatory for Arogya Setu app for customers, others such as the Oasis kept a register of names and phone numbers of those entering the mall premises. 

In addition, Forum Malls have a disinfection tunnel that all customers entering the mall have to walk through in order to enter. 

Malls in Tamil Nadu which has the highest COVID-19 cases among Southern states and Kerala, where cases have been on the rise recently, remain closed on June 8.

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