A year after Borders Group collapsed, a survey by Colliers International shows that one-third of 205 bookstores shut down by the company are still vacant, according to the Wall Street Journal. Stores that replaced Borders in U.S. malls and shopping centers are leasing at rates an average of 30% lower than Borders paid. In at least one case, tenants demanded rent decreases to make up for Borders' absence. Bizarre, as it may sound, that’s the real power of anchor tenants. Anchors are those Retailers who attract the most number of shoppers walking into a mall. They could be of different formats such as Hypermarkets, Supermarkets, Specialty Retailers, Book Stores, Leisure Stores, Factory Outlets. Cinemas and Multiplexes and even Cafes and Restaurants.
While planning and zoning a Mall, the developers provide a lot of importance to the placement of Anchors. As the name suggests, they literally hold the ship (the mall) on their shoulders. They usually have a road-facing presence, mostly on the ground and upper floors and on either sides of the Mall if the Mall has two entrances or more. Anchors are also the first to be signed up by the Mall Developers because it is easier to attract smaller tenants basis the power of footfall attraction of the Anchors.
Let us look at some of the most common Mall tenants;
Retailers such as Big Bazaar, Hypercity, Spar, etc. qualify under this category. Hypermarkets are usually located in the lower ground as this is an area that is otherwise difficult to lease. Hypers however have the ability to pull footfalls due to their pricing and promotion strategies. Due to their low cost of operation, Hypermarkets command a very low rental structure, which is usually expected to be maintained at 6-8% of their Turnover. Malls usually provide a separate entry / exit for Hypers if they are in the lower basement with large escalators and elevators and pathways for customers with trolleys to move comfortably and safely. To have established Hypers in the Mall is a sure shot way to ensure continued heavy footfalls through the week.
Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Reliance Trends, Westside to name a few have been the Mall developers first choice to sign up in their premises. Inorbit Mall at Malad, a suburban area in Mumbai was one of the first malls to have two Department stores within. Needless to say, it attracts one of the highest footfalls for any Mall in India. Department Stores are good tenants, from a return per sft point of view to the Mall Developers. They peg their rentals at 10-15% of their Turnover and can hence pay a slight premium compared to Hypers. Also, they attract a superior set of customers which benefits the Mall overall. Premium customers also means more amenities, such as large car-parking areas, valet parking services, premium architecture, more elevators and escalators, etc.
Brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Aldo, Zara Calvin Klein, Mont Blanc, Apple, Electronic and Consumer Durables Retailers such as Croma and Ezone, home improvement retailers such as Home Stop, Home Town, Home Centre etc. are considered Specialty Retailers who stock premium merchandise. These Retailers are extremely choosy in terms of their choice of location, sometimes no more than 2 or 3 per city. Specialty Retailers pay premium charges for high-profile locations within the Mall, usually road-facing two-tier stores or atrium-facing outlets. Since they are available sparingly, customers flock to their stores and hence the brands maintain their exclusivity.
Books and Leisure
Crossword, Odyssey, Landmark, to name a few are chains of books and leisure stores commonly found in Malls in India. They usually do not occupy the ground floors – mainly due to compelling rents. Instead, they prefer higher floors and have a strong pull of customers who are more of impulse shoppers. Their rent-to-sales ratio is no more than 20% and also operate with heavy staffing, mainly due to pilferage issues. E-Commerce has threatened the existence of many book stores and it’s a common sight these days to either see many of them empty even during peak hours and weekends or a few of them shutting their shutters for want of business.
Suburban Malls, usually located outside the city have tenants such as Mega Mart, Brand Factory, Loot, Coupon, etc. who are deep discounters. These stores sell merchandise that belong to the previous seasons and hence at a discount. India has over 500 million people under the age of 30, and hence there is a huge opportunity to sell to a third of customers in this bracket who are aspirational, yet price-sensitive customers. They pay not more than 12-15% of their sales as rent and hence maintain a lean-mean operation. Most of their stores are non-air-conditioned and staff strength is minimal.
Cafes, Restaurants and Foodcourts
Café Coffee Day, India’s leading café chain with over 1,300 cafes across the country is among the trusted tenants to double up as anchors. Being a youth brand, it attracts the right target group for malls. Restaurant & Bar chains such as McDonalds, KFC, Geoffrey's, TGIF, Hard Rock Café, etc. are sure-shot crowd pullers mainly due to their limited presence in the cities. Also many boutique restaurants, usually high-end also are considered as anchors in some way. They are unique in their offering and are usually entrepreneur driven, which means superior service, great food and a superb ambience, consistently and all through the year. Cafes and Restaurants can stretch upto 25% of their Turnover as Rents, to gain maximum visibility.
The boom began around 2006 when the country’s first chain of cinemas PVR began rapid expansion in Delhi and surrounding National Capital Region (NCR) and later followed by the Northern, Western and Southern Markets. And then came others such as INOX, Big Cinemas, Fame Cinemas, Fun Cinemas and the most recent being the world’s largest exhibitor, Cinepolis. The movie screening business is considered to be one of the most lucrative ones in India, given the fact that India produces over 2,000 movies every year across several genres in over 15 languages. Although it is a high investment business, the returns are equally exciting.
Going back to the opening statement, sadly there is not a single retailer in India who commands the respect and power as the one that Borders does. Not yet. Developers and Retailers are always at logger heads due to high rentals charged and low / sometimes poor maintenance of the Malls. Mall Developers and Retailers are constantly in a love-hate relationship. Both need each other and cannot do without one another. Yet, there are very few successful stories of collaboration between the two, maybe countable with both hands. Thanks to the ongoing opening up of FDI in Retail and with more and more International Retailers coming in, this is one area that would only get better. And hopefully, I would get a chance to chronicle a few of them.