Fashioning a successful modern mall in India

In recent years, more than a dozen shopping centers across the country have gone out of business. However some are surviving, what makes a good mall?

October 27, 2016

India’s malls are only too aware of how tough the country’s burgeoning retail scene can be.


In recent years, more than a dozen of them across the country have gone out of business. Yet where some have failed, others are flourishing.

“As everywhere in the world, the successful malls in India have got a few things right. Not only do they get their market positioning vis-à-vis the catchment area right but also leverage their location and design to help create a better shopping experience compared to their peers. Intelligent and superior mall design is a vital element for healthy circulation and providing good frontage and accessibility to all stores,” says Anuj Puri, chairman and country head of JLL India.

Today, the focus is on enhancing the per-square-foot productivity of the mall while providing value to consumers to help fight back against the rising threat posed by the online retailers. In order to increase the all-important ‘dwell time’ of shoppers, vacant spaces are now being re-invented into seating areas, kiosks, vending machines, ATMs, interactive information points and activities for children.

“Social areas are an important consideration as Indian consumers prefer to shop with their families or friends. Also, given the lack of high quality public places in most Indian cities, coupled with poor infrastructure and connectivity, malls providing everything from clothing to food options and entertainment have a wider appeal and the potential to attract more people,” adds Puri.

One of the key mantras of successful malls has been the constant focus on re-planning and re-optimisation of retail spaces, according to Ashutosh Limaye, National Director – Research, JLL India. “Managing a good tenant mix keeps up the shoppers’ interest and these developments have been able to successfully evolve into family destinations,” he says.

Creating spaces where retailers want to be

Such tactics are having a noticeable effect. Successful malls are seeing an increase in interest from foreign and domestic brands to have a foothold, if not a sizeable presence, in their premises so much so that some leading brands are even willing to wait to secure a space.

It’s good news for mall operators; across India’s cities, rents in successful malls are going up due to declining vacancies. Furthermore, they can cherry pick their retailers and weed out ones that are not performing as well. In other instances, brands have been forced to shift to higher (and less attractive) floors or move elsewhere within the premises so that better-performing brands can be accommodated.

Getting the right mix of retail tenants in a mall is crucial. An optimal tenant mix is one that allows for experiential shopping and has categories that generate high levels of footfall such as food and beverage and entertainment, according to Rohan Sharma, associate director, Research, JLL India.

“This has to be coupled with mall-level activities like shopping festivals, music events and movie premieres or promotions. Events centred on store openings are also picking up as a trend. In addition, many malls today have pop-up stores offering something a little different to the mainstream retailers,” says Sharma.

Making the shopping trip as hassle free as possible is also a key consideration with successful malls addressing the issue of large numbers of cars through traffic management services such as wardens or valet parking.

Indian versus Asian malls

While India’s scene is rapidly evolving, it has fewer malls than in other parts of Asia, according to James Assersohn, Local Director, Retail, Asia Pacific at JLL. This has resulted in lower levels of competition.

“Ultimately the Indian mall aims to deliver the same experience as malls in other parts of the world do, offering an environment that shoppers want to spend time in and spend money. However, the build and design quality of many malls is lagging behind what you see in other places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Chinese cities, as well as Dubai,” says Assersohn.

As many malls around the world become more homogenous with the same retailers, malls increasingly need to find ways to differentiate themselves. One way is through high quality food and beverage retailers along with large space entertainment concepts.

“No longer is the customer happy with just an ice rink or a standard cinema. They are expecting top range 3D cinemas and kids’ entertainment concepts like Kidzania or Legoland Discovery Centre in the mature economies. Providing a point of differentiation to your retail mix is the key to keeping customers in the mall for longer and encouraging higher spending. It’s something Indian malls should explore more,” says Assersohn.

Indeed, there may not be one standard formula for creating a successful mall but there are certainly key ingredients which go a long way in creating spaces where people want to shop, eat and socialize.