Reopening after 75 days of Covid-induced lockdown on June 8 (Monday), shopping malls and eateries in this tech city are limping back to business, with rising footfalls and steady customers, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing as per the government guidelines.
“Footfalls are slowly increasing by the day with more in the evening though business in shops is yet to pick up. Due to restriction on allowing only 50 per cent of the capacity at a time, footfalls are certainly not what they were before the lockdown was enforced,” Phoenix Market City mall manager Mohan told.
Located in the upscale Whitefield of the city’s south-east suburb, the sprawling mall has about 330 shops, kiosks, food courts, restaurants and theatres.
“As food courts and cinema theatres remain shut, there is a 50 per cent drop in footfalls from the pre-lockdown days. Guideline to regulate the entry and movement of customers inside the mall for shopping has also limited the footfall, as not many people are willing to wait in queues outside, especially those with family, including children,” said Mohan.
Admitting that some shops in the mall were yet to reopen as they need to replace stocks (merchandise), Mohan said there was more window-shopping than real buying as customers were wary of spending.
“As visiting malls is more than shopping, especially for the young and trendy, many customers are uncomfortable wearing mask, waiting for entry, washing hands with sanitizer, facing thermal scanner and maintaining physical distance even if they are couples. Shopping experience is missing,” lamented Mohan.
Echoing Mohan, Forum Mall manager said the people’s response since the reopening was encouraging but not exciting due to guidelines with more don’ts than dos although they were returning to malls after being stranded at home for over 70 days, which never happened before.
“We have about 80-100 shops, mostly branded showcasing and selling a variety of goods from clothes, readymade garments, cosmetics, footwear, novelties to electronics and consumer products. With food courts and cinema halls in the mall still closed, footfalls are about 40 per cent of our capacity,” said the manager on the condition of anonymity.
Hoping for early reopening of food courts, restaurants and theaters soon under unlock 2 or 3, In-Orbit senior official Diwakar Sharma said the business was sluggish, as its only 2 days since the malls reopened and too early to say when normalcy would return.
“If food courts and theatres reopen, the footfalls will increase steadily as many come to malls for eating out, fun and entertainment. It’s a wholesome experience for families when malls fully. We hope to seem more footfalls during the coming weekend,” Sharma noted.
Like malls, restaurants and eateries across the city are seeing only 50 per cent of customers entering for dining as their entry is regulated and restricted under the guidelines.
“We are yet to open all our restaurants across the city as the guidelines insist on using disposable plates, cups and glasses. As customers have to maintain physical distance for dining and wait for their turn to enter our premises, the turnout is slow during the day but better in the morning and evenings,” Kamath group of hotels and restaurants manager Chetan told.
Absence of tourists and serving staff, including waiters who are migrants from other districts in the state, is holding up other hotel chains from reopening.
“With summer ending and monsoon setting in, we have to wait longer for regular business to return. This is the first time we had to shut our hotels and restaurants for over 70 days. Complying with new guidelines is costing us more on the operational front because we have provide sanitiser to custmors, use disposable plates, cups and glasses and have partition walls on each table to ensure social distancing,” Empire Hotel chain manager Sabir Saab told.
Scene at the iconic MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Room) near the famous Lalbagh public gardens in the city’s southern suburb, however, encouraging as there is a steady stream of customers turning up for its aromatic coffee, tasty cuisine and vegetarian full meals.
“The wait is bit longer for customers as only 50 per cent of our dining capacity is being used to serve them. Due to shortage of cooks and waiters, as they have all gone to their native places, we are not able to serve all the dishes for eating or parcel,” MTR manager Ranganna told.