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Friday, June 18, 2021

Pune malls to reopen with stress on staff vaccination, health checks for customers

On Friday, the government announced that malls could reopen at 50 per cent capacity from Monday, marking an end to almost two months of shutdown during a brutal second wave.

Written by Dipanita Nath | Pune |
Updated: June 12, 2021 11:20:57 am
In 2020, malls were shut down in March as part of the nationwide lockdown. (Express photo by Tashi Tobgyal/Representational)

In the past five days, Phoenix Marketcity mall in Pune has been vaccinating employees — 1,800 retailer staff and 800 of its own mall staff — and has sent out messages to those outside Pune to rejoin work after getting the jab.

On Friday, the government announced that malls could reopen at 50 per cent capacity from Monday, marking an end to almost two months of shutdown during a brutal second wave.

“We are ready to open with all the categories of guidelines in place. In 2020, malls were shut down in March as part of the nationwide lockdown. Since then, we have been operational for only a few months. When we did open in 2020, we saw the crowd was upbeat and ready to bounce back. This time, they are more cautious and strict about safety measures. I feel that malls are safer than highstreet shopping as we can ensure high safeguards,” says Arun Arora, centre director, Phoenix Marketcity.

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At Westend Mall, people will be have temperature and oxygen checks upon entering. All staff, including hospitality and security, will be vaccinated before they start work. “This will ensure that the mall has a controlled atmosphere that is safe and hygienic for customers to shop around. We are also willing to conduct a vaccination drive at our mall for customers who are above 18 years in partnership with the government,” says Virender Thakur, centre director, Westend Mall.

He expects 50 per cent of the pre-pandemic crowd to return and 60 per cent of business to be back by the first quarter. “Depending on the vaccination, we expect footfall to increase by the next quarter and 70-80 per cent of business to come back as people shop for Diwali and Christmas…” he says.

Amanora Mall expects the buzz to return quickly. Last year when the unblock began, almost 50 per cent of its pre-pandemic customer footfall of 20 lakh per month was back.

“We are very happy with the government’s move. We will now be able to trade like others. Earlier, the high streets were allowed to open for certain hours but malls had specific restrictions. Malls are among the biggest boosts for employment as an average mall employs 1,000 people. Restaurant timings have been extended so we hope that in a few months, as the situation improves, things will get better for us,” says Surjit Rajpurohit, COO of Amanora Mall, adding that a mall was a safer place to shop than an open market.

Multiplexes, however, will remain closed. Prakash Chaphalkar of Citypride multiplex chain, says that all its properties will remain closed till the government allows 100 per cent occupancy. “There are no big releases until 100 per cent occupancy is allowed, especially in cities like Mumbai and Delhi. Big films will not be released until then and multiplexes will not open with small films,” he says.

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