Retailers see rise in footfalls as North goes brrrrrr!

07 Jan,2013

By A Correspondent


Freezing temperatures in North have boosted business for winter wear and heating appliances, attracted the youth to the cozy comfort of malls, and prompted the travel trade to promote hill stations as sunny alternatives to bone-chilling and fogged-out cities.


But the chilling weather has also disrupted flights and delayed trains as dense fog has reduced visibility with minimum temperature up to 5° below normal in some areas.


While some malls and swanky markets said business was gloomy, many were upbeat. Leading retailers such as Lifestyle, Woodland, Future Group and Reliance Retail reported a rise in footfalls and sales up by 20-30% in markets like NCR, Chandigarh, Amritsar and Ludhiana in the last one week over the same period year ago.


Sales are driven by woolens, jackets, winter boots, shoes, caps, gloves and innerwear. “Sales have in fact outstripped our expectations, with the cold wave triggering unprecedented demand for winter wear,” says Woodland MD Harkirat Singh. He said stores in the NCR and hill stations like Shimla and Mussoorie reported good demand for winterwear. A senior Lifestyle executive said sales were higher across its stores in Delhi, Gurgaon, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Kanpur.


Future Group’s chief for electronics format eZone Rajan Malhotra said sales of geysers and room heaters have shot up by more than 50% in its North outlets. “We are replenishing inventory of these products on a weekly basis since it’s a complete sell-out,” he says.


But Ashish Sharma, who manages The Great India Place in Noida, painted a different picture. “The footfall dropped by 25 to 30% in the last few days,” he said, citing the sharp fall in temperature to the lowest in nearly half a century. The sombre mood after the brutal gang-rape and murder in Delhi preventing malls from hosting celebrations and promotional events also contributed to the gloom, he said.


Open shopping centres like New Delhi’s Khan Market were also hit. “Since the 1st of January evening, the footfall has been low and we have seen 40% drop because of harsh weather conditions,” said Hurender Singh, manager operations of Urban Cafe at Khan Market, one of the 25 most expensive shopping market areas in the world alongside Causeway in Hong Kong and Fifth Avenue in New York.


Rose, a sales executive at fashion store Zingrin, said sales almost halved on Wednesday. “Maybe because Khan Market is an open area as compared to malls,” she said. For the travel trade, schedules have been upset by the dense fog as five flights were diverted and about 100 morning flights have been delayed since Jan 1 as visibility fell below 200 m.


Mandip Singh Soin, MD of Ibex Expeditions, said that apart from flight schedules, there was no real impact on tourism. Vijay Thakur, MD of India Vision Tours & Travels, said that people who have already planned their trips were still travelling for the snow, but others who are planning a trip to the hills are reconsidering or postponing. “Our domestic travel business has seen a 10-15% drop in bookings since the cold wave began,” he said.


Sudhir Sobti, public relations manager for Delhi Tourism and Transport Development is optimistic. “This is holiday time and people are mentally prepared to enjoy shopping and site-seeing. Despite the cold wave, people are pouring in, especially the youth as they like to enjoy the winter and its charm. There may be some who shy away from cold or senior citizens who may not want to move out, but as far as overall tourist numbers are concerned, I do not see any major impact.”


Hoteliers in the hills are promoting their properties and the locations as sunny and pleasant alternatives to foggy cities. “The perception is that when it’s cold in Delhi, it’s colder in the hills. But the fact is that the hills are getting bright sunshine, when its foggy in Delhi, which keeps temperature levels up there pleasant. It is a new phenomenon, which has caught both tourists and hoteliers unaware,” said S M Shervani, MD, Shervani Hospitalities. The company owns and operates a hotel in Nainital.


“If you want to beat the chill of the plains, come to the sunny hills. We are looking forward to an influx of tourists from the plains and are seeking support of the government tourist department to promote the hills,” says Shaillendra Karanwal, CEO at Hotel Nand Residency, Mussoorie and Treasurer of Mussoorie Hotels and Restaurants Association.


Several shopping malls are trying to lure customers by advancing end-season discount sales and raising the pitch for winterwear and heating appliances. Arjun Sharma, director of Select Citywalk, said people were turning to the ‘cozy’ shopping center.


“Much like each year, the warm interiors, inviting cafes, and abundant shopping options are inviting features for people,” Mr Sharma said, adding that the sale period for most brands had just begun. “This again is another factor encouraging footfalls. We have seen a growth in the footfalls this year.”


According to Kanwardip Singh, senior manager, customer relations at Ambience Mall, winter may be breaking all records but their establishment has not really seen a downtrend in footfalls. “Brands like Adidas and several others have started sale promotions 10-15 days earlier than usual, and are drawing crowds. In addition, people tend to come out and shop for winterwear here,” Mr Singh added.


However, Mukul Shah, manager at Sahara Mall of Gurgaon, felt that if the weather continued to remain cold, there was a fear of business being hit. “Usually, in this season, we see a 40% hike in footfalls but since the beginning of New Year, the hike has been limited to 10-15%. This, despite the fact that the schools are closed,” Shah said. In an effort to increase the footfalls, he said, the mall is organising brunches and barbeques on the terrace floors.


Ashish Saxena, CEO, Big Cinema says, “The early morning and night shows are badly affected by the cold wave, which is why we re-schedule the show timing and do not go beyond 10 pm for the last show. The footfalls for the night shows go down by about 25%. During winters we end up losing up to two shows in a day because of the re-scheduling.” Though, he doesn’t attribute the dip in footfalls entirely to the cold. “Since Dabangg, there hasn’t been any big release.”


Deepak Marda, MD, Cinepolis India says, “Late night shows have been impacted severely in our theatres in north India because of the cold wave situation. Occupancy in some theatres has dropped by almost 70%.” Cinepolis has theatres in Delhi, Punjab and Bihar in the North.


Some companies are allowing executives to work from home. “We started centralised heating a week ago keeping the weather in mind. There has been no abnormal dip in attendance due to the weather. Those who can’t come to office for unavoidable reasons have the choice to work from home,” said A Sudhakar, senior executive director – HR, Dabur India.


Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2013, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved


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