With the advent of e-commerce in India, shopping converged into mobile devices in the form of websites and apps. At the click of a button one could buy just about anything, from groceries to apparel to electronics and almost anything else. For a while, it appeared that ‘couch potato shopping’ was gaining prominence and that e-commerce will eventually disrupt the entire brick-and-mortar business.
However, this is not entirely true. While it did cause some disruption, it was not enough to have a significant and lasting impact on the conventional retail formats. Initially, the heavy discounts offered by e-commerce sites lured buyers and impacted malls that registered a slight dip in the overall footfalls and sales.
Consumers came back to malls as they missed the holistic retail experience. Moreover, they saw that malls are no longer just shopping destinations but places where they can unwind and get entertained. With the discount seasons becoming a vogue even across malls, shoppers are all geared up to feel the experience whether in malls or in the virtual world, as per their convenience.
How things will unfold for malls in the times to come remains to be seen. The changing business environment, favourable policy shifts and the entry of numerous global players indicate that a resurgence of shopping malls in India is definite. The need of the hour is to develop good quality malls that can attract occupiers for the long-term so that the entire value chain of the retail sector benefits.
A clear measure of increasing focus on the retail sector is that private equity players and wealth funds invested over US $800 million in Indian retail market in 2017. As it was, quite a few badly-conceived and executed malls did fail. That said, one lesson learnt is that there is a distinct need for developing multi-channel retailing rather than just relying on the traditional methods.
Meanwhile, the fact that online biggies like Amazon and Alibaba are investing in offline stores indicates that brick-and-mortar business is not going anywhere in spite of the online assault. When customers want an experience, they come to stores. Thus, online and offline retail have started working together in one ecosystem.