Malls and shopping complexes, which have been shut for nearly two months amid the second wave, are seeking support from the state governments to get through the current crisis, while also urging that they be allowed to re-open soon.
According to Mukesh Kumar, Chairman of Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI), malls have already lost around Rs 25,000-30,000 crore in revenue in the last two months due to the curbs. Having offered rental waivers to several retailers, the revenue of mall operators has come down by 45-60 percent, SCAI said.
SCAI is now seeking both financial support, and some concessions in property tax, operational license fees, and electricity bills.
“We need government support in property taxes. When malls are closed and we are not collecting any money, how can we pay. We want to request the government to waive off at least a part of it. We also need a rebate on fixed charges for electricity since our consumption currently is very less,” added Kumar, who is also the CEO of Infiniti Malls.
Rajneesh Mahajan, CEO of Inorbit Mall and part of SCAI added that mall operators have received property tax invoices recently and that some relief coming their way before the payment is made will give them some cash flow benefits.
In terms of financial support, the industry is seeking relief from the Reserve Bank of India, both in the form of a moratorium and waiver on interest and allowing some of the newer infrastructure loans to be restructured.
Malls have also said that if they’re not allowed to open soon, it could lead to several job losses. Last year, about 25-30% of those employed in the retail industry were laid off during the nation-wise lockdowns.
“As of now we have already reached about 20% in terms of jobs lost, but if it stays longer again we will be reaching back to the same number. That’s our fear today - how to protect jobs. It can all be done if we are allowed to operate,” Kumar added.
Last year, malls were among the first to be shut when a lockdown was imposed in March and were only allowed to open in Maharashtra in August. This year too, malls say they fear that they will be the last to be allowed to open.
Malls argue that they are much safer compared to public spaces and that malls have the capability of ensuring stringent safety measures are in place.
“Malls have a very strong capability of monitoring and screening anyone who comes in in terms of temperature check, be it Aargoya Sethu, wearing masks, etc. We also have a deployment of manpower within malls to ensure hygiene and safety is maintained,” Mahajan added.
SCAI further added that malls are now actively sharing with the government the safety measures put in place, and are even inviting authorities to inspect the place, hoping to be allowed to open as soon as restrictions in the state are eased.
Note to reader:
A previous version of this story got the designation of Rajneesh Mahajan wrong. It has now been corrected and the mistake is regretted.
(Edited by : Aditi Gautam)
First Published: IST