Even as the government decides to reopen India for business amid rising cases of coronavirus, malls and retailers are heading into the “unlock” phase with a sense of uncertainty.
Malls are expecting footfall to not exceed 20-30% in the first few weeks, even as retailers said they are waiting to renegotiate deals for their stores with the top mall developers. Restaurants, on the other hand, said that it may be a while before they decide to open outlets for dine-in as the restrictions imposed by the government does not make the business viable.
On Sunday, Delhi government moved to open malls and restaurants joining states such as Kerala, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana that will see such businesses resume operations this week.
A top fashion retailer, who spoke to Mint on the condition of anonymity, said that the brand has not reviewed its decision to re-open its stores in the malls as they have yet to reach fresh rental agreements with developers “who are not supportive.”
Retailers have been requesting mall owners to work on revenue share agreements and let go of any other monetary obligations.
Agreed Alisha Malik, vice president, e-commerce at Metro Brands Ltd, that operates 500 stores for footwear brands Metro, Mochi and Crocs. “50% of our stores are now open. But to re-open our stores in malls, we are in talks for revenue-share deals based on the sales we are able to clock. The talks are happening in good spirit but till the matter is clear, we do not see our outlets in malls opening,” she said.
Malik added that the footwear maker has been able to re-negotiate rental deals with all its high-street stores.
Malls in Delhi said they are awaiting list for Standard Operating Procedure from the Delhi government and will re-open their properties over the next two to three days. “In the first few days, we expect footfalls to be around 30% of pre-covid levels, all tenants are on stand-by to open up,” said Abhishek Bansal, executive director, Pacific India that operates malls in the Delhi-NCR region. Bansal said the developer has reached some level of agreement on rent with tenants.
High-end restaurants in Delhi and Gurugram, however, were sceptical of the order to open under restrictions. Chef Manish Mehrotra who runs Indian Accent at The Lodhi and Comorin in Gurugram, said there’s till no clarity on whether restaurants can serve liquor. “And with the 9 pm curfew, they cannot serve dinner. Plus working with 50% seating capacity would not make business sense,” he said. Agreed Nakul Chandra, chief executive officer of Riga Foods that runs Italian restaurant Diva: “We are waiting for the detailed order. But under these regulations, most restaurants will bleed. But it makes sense for cafes with no liquor licence and Quick Service Restaurant formats to open.”
Not surprisingly, Pizza Hut plans top open itself for dine-in customers in the coming week. Welcoming the move, Merrill Pereyra , managing director, Pizza Hut Indian Subcontinent, said that their store teams on-ground are working towards ensuring they are ready at the earliest.
“Pizza Hut is in the midst of rolling out contactless dine-in wherein right from accessing the menu to making payments, the entire process will be digital. Seating will be re-aligned and food service tables will be attached with dine-in tables to maintain social distancing between servers and customers. Temperature checks of walk-in customers, sanitizers at key touch points and wearing of masks by restaurant staff at all times will be ensured,” he said.
Peyreyra added that since contactless delivery and takeaways is functional, stores are already following guidelines issued by the government, WHO and FSSAI.