Neighborhood Shopping Centers as a new mantra for Mall Districts
India has witnessed a huge retail transformation supported by rising consumer purchasing power and spending pattern. Much of the focus has been on the emergence of malls, however, the importance of local shops or kirana stores in shopping centers never waned. They are best placed to meet the daily demands of households by providing the value of proximity and familiarity of needs. The concentrated shopping destinations or mall districts skewed retail distribution and also effecting consumer convenience – increased travel time, traffic congestion, and crowded shopping bays.
Neighborhood Shopping Centers (NSCs) could be the key in meeting such retail demands that may eventually lead to a good shopping experience. While they are in existence abroad, they haven’t quite been included in Development Plans for Indian cities.
Key elements of well planned NSCs are easy accessible location, sufficient on site parking, right tenant mix and comfortable surroundings for shopping. It also needs to blend into a comprehensive local development plan that focuses on all the key issues that are pertinent to the community. These centers may have 10-40 stores with a total retail space of around 10,000-50,000 sq. ft. A site area of around 1-3 acres may be required, for a center that has an area radius of roughly 3-5 km. It’s important to mention the relevance to community needs, understanding of local taste and meaningful price positioning. They should also be located conveniently in a manner that makes accessibility easier while reaching home from office.
Large format shopping facilities or Malls require huge site areas that are typically in excess of 10 acres. Such large spaces aren’t easily available in cities like Mumbai, nor are they equitably dispersed through urban settlements. This results in concentrated developments governed by availability of land. It’s likely that these sites lack desired support infrastructure like access roads, water supply, sewage and parking resulting in huge bottlenecks and chaos, which affects the shopping experience. Also, from a retailers’ viewpoint, the rentals increases substantially with the emergence as a “Shopping District”. This also leads to varying margins and affects sustainability of these retail units.
Large numbers of malls have come up in last 5 years at Vashi, Malad, Lower Parel and Mulund areas. Vashi itself has five malls; in contrast most of the suburbs in Navi Mumbai have none, or even smaller shopping centers. Traveling through New Link road near Malad during weekends is nightmarish caused by vehicular congestion near malls, and lower retail efficiency due to overcrowded shopping floors within. A lot of daily traffic that may deter a comfortable shopping experience, and could put tremendous strain on the entire support infrastructure, and eventually may lead lower efficiency or ROI to the units and developers. NSC is the key to such situations, when there’s a good network of centers across the city.
In Mumbai, care should be taken to incorporate NSCs in future development plans including the supporting road network, and more so the revival of community markets of the Municipal Corporation. The neighborhood shopping centers in each locality or housing block will also contribute immensely to decongesting the city, and support better living.