13 September, 2009

Old wine in a new Box...

After a long time, I had the opportunity to visit the Garuda Mall last week. I had a three hour layover between two meetings and I thought it was most apt for me to spend time there and I also had a lot of reasons to visit (I am not an avid shopper though, rather an ever-curious retail student who prefers to watch people buy!). It was quite easy to reach Garuda – I was coming from Marathalli so, after some twists and turns, finally reached the place. Parking was smooth – found a good spot in Basement 2. Bright Red Advertising from Airtel welcomed while claiming proudly that there were full signals and network there – I didn’t test as I use a Vodafone, but it was a strong communication and reaffirmation of their service, I thought.

Whenever I visit a mall, I usually start from the main entrance – and that’s what I did. Something’s never change – I wondered where these fence sitters come from. I was part of the clan a few years ago and now I am not. It was our favorite spot to sit, smoke, chat, take crucial business decisions, et al. And I found similar instances even now. Bustling of people entering and exiting the mall, continuous but moving traffic on the roads (that have a traffic flow that only the creators would understand) and a light drizzle – a great environment to get parked! But I wasn’t there for that, of course.

Entered the Atrium – again as crowded as ever. There were simultaneous promotions happening – a couple of MCs engaging the crowd with various activities. Walked all along the floors – Marks & Spencer’s announcing their “Final Reductions” and the new Esprit Store attracting a few good shoppers. Westside and Body Shop tucked in their corners and the Swatch island replaced with some popular brand that sells Jewelry and Watches. Nothing much was different in the first and second floors – except some changes in the Brands that occupied earlier who chose to move out – Benetton and Bossini among them. Then walked back to the Ground Floor to enter Shoppers Stop – it was the last day of their “End of Season Sale (upto 51%)” and as always, last minute shopping by busy-bees who had no time to shop earlier.

There is something that this Retailer has done – which probably no one else has in that way. They attract the highest number of footfalls into the Store. The most relevant, the least relevant, the irrelevant, Jack, Jill, Tom, Dick, Harry and Me. Notably, the conversions increase during the Sale, as many shoppers love to take advantage of the season. Am not sure how many hold back their purchases like before – after all EOSS was only twice a year. But this has changed now. With Factory Outlets springing up all over the city and specific shopping districts getting created, the essence of Discount shopping seems to have lost its relevance anymore. So what if one doesn’t shop during the Sale, the Discount Store is a (fun) drive away anyway. I guess EOSS would slowly but surely lose its sheen significantly. Something that’s not so good for Brands, as a tenth of shoppers who visit the stores during the Sale come back to buy merchandise later on. All the three floors were so crowded and as usual, air conditioning not at its best, suffocation was sure in sometime. After visiting almost all corners, I exited back into the second floor.

And noticed there was a near-stampede in one of the shops. Curious enough, when I went close by, I was told that a new Brand was being launched and a mini catwalk being organized inside the 50 sqm store! Wow. No wonder, there were more people outside the store than inside. The event promoters who were standing outside hosting chocolates, snacks and some tit-bits proudly offered and claimed the Brand was doing all this for seeking attention. Fake Customers – I remembered I have read this before. I believe some brands, especially high end fashion brands and some jewelry stores actually bring in fake customers to crowd the outlet, thereby increasing the visual appeal of the Outlet from outside. They don’t buy anything buy generally hang around till such time crowd picks-up. I hope what I read this somewhere was untrue.

Later moved on to the Food court – named Pit Stop. There was nothing sporty or F1 related there but for a rare poster of some racing car or driver. Many of the initial occupants have moved out and some who came later have also moved out. The ones who still continue are either making money marginally or are forced to stay on for other reasons – mere presence being one. Subway and Shiv Sagar (who sells the local snacks) were attracting the highest footfalls – one which offers consistent high quality food and the other, that’s easy on the wallet. The erstwhile fine-dine restaurant has been replaced by another – don’t know if it makes any difference to mall hoppers – after all, the Mall Restaurants are rarely destinations.

And the floor above, INOX Cinemas, was the biggest surprise. Most of the movies on the menu screen were showing green – indicating that seats were still available for the upcoming shows, even for the latest hits across all languages – Kannada, Hindi and Tamil. Wonder, if people are shunning the cinema halls mainly because of the content or other fears such as H1N1 or if the “recession effect” had still not reduced. Whichever way, the "once-busy long queue" sight of the Box Office (the ticket counter) looked deserted – with very few aspirational ones standing for tickets.

Overall, the Mall looked an old wine in a new box… errr, bottle. Lot’s more needs to be done – to attract shoppers to this place; to begin with, better maintenance of rest rooms and orderly car parking at reasonable rates. Remember, a new one is in the making, giving final touches at Malleswaram.

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