Express Avenue Mall, launched in 2010, has been a pioneer in introducing a whole new dimension of style and glamour to the lifestyle of people living in Chennai. Nine years on, the mall boasts of a gamut of leading international and national brands of repute in its premises, with the promise of opening many more in the future.
The journey of Express Avenue mall has been quite interesting. The mall was launched amidst serious doubts about the potential of running such a huge mall in a very conservative market. The launch turned out to be a roaring success and laid to rest the arguments of many sceptics.
“The factors that have contributed to the success of the mall are a relevant & Superior brand mix, Design, strategic location, customer experience and strong customer engagement,” says Munish Khanna, Chief Revenue Officer, Express Avenue.
Zoning of The MallExpress Avenue follows a superior zoning strategy to ensure that stores are organised in an ‘easy discovery’ manner for visitors. The ground floor, being the face of the mall, is occupied by some of the best international brands and mall management is now upgrading the same by bringing in more bridge-to-luxury brands.
The lower ground floor is the hypermarket, along with electronics and many homegrown brands. The first floor is dominated by menswear and accessories, and footwear, while the second floor is occupied by womenswear and accessories, kidswear, and sportswear.
The third floor is earmarked for entertainment. It includes a cinema, a fun zone, food options as well as best of indulgence options like a spa. Highlighting the importance of zoning in the mall, Khanna says, “Zoning in a mall is like store telling in a movie. It excites the customer, draws them in, induces them to indulge and spend time and increases overall stickiness in the mall. It is a science and art of representing the relevant categories/ brands across the mall vertically and horizontally. Zoning also induces a smooth flow of traffic within the mall, thus aiding and triggering consumption.”
“Along with this, a well-designed mall is easy to navigate for consumers and enhances overall shopping experience. This is return, increases the stickiness of consumers and ensures their repeat visit to the malls,” he adds.
A Healthy Brand Mix
Chennai has been a dormant market in South India for many years now. With the growing awareness in the form of Internet and frequent travel by consumers, the fashion quotient is slowly picking up. Earlier, as compared to Delhi and Mumbai, fashion in Chennai was not a prominent category, but now as the traction has started increasing, results can be seen allover.
“We recently launched the first store of Armani Exchange at the mall. Express Avenue also houses the only Burberry store in Chennai. Aside from that, we are home to luxury brands like Mont Blanc, BMW, Luxe Bridge. Bath & Body Works, Under Armour have been launched in South India for the first time in at Express Avenue. We are also developing fine dining experiences with places like Mamagoto and Punjab Grill. Tryst Gourmet a first of its kind boulangerie and gourmet store is also within the premises,” states Khanna. A healthy mix of the international, national and regional diaspora contribute to the success of the mall.
“To further stay relevant to the market, we are planning to introduce a few international fashion brands which are not there in Chennai but are present in cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi. We are focusing more on bridge-to-luxury brands. The reason for bringing in international brands is simple – they help increase the glamour quotient of the mall and appeal to aspirational consumers. Home-grown brands on the other hand capitalise, maximise and clock the optimum trading densities serving the local preferences in a more effective manner,” he explains.
“Express Avenue has the highest Trading Density in South India. This indicates the numbers and demand Chennai currently has. While it is not necessary to be bullish in approach, but we need to take the right steps, get the right brands in the mall and have a strong pulse on what is continuously going to evolve so that we get the relevant retailers here,” he adds.
At Express Avenue, concept stores generate moderate footfalls, but their uniqueness and creative fitting creates a buzz among the shoppers. ‘Spice Route’ & ‘Dialogue in Dark’ are two concept stores which are very unique in their own way and only present in Express Avenue in Chennai.
“Concept stores bring in unique content, attracting footfalls to the mall. Increasingly malls are becoming concept-driven and high on experiences so as to stay relevant to the evolving customers,” shares Khanna.
Express Avenue Mall has installed Digital Directories at each floor mapping the entire mall.
“Apart from this, we have introduced self-service kiosks at the food court to eliminate the tasking job of standing in queues while ordering food. Soon, we will be introducing a mall app and a loyalty program too,” states Khanna.
Funcity has been a trusted partner for Express Avenue since 2010. Spread in the area of 20,000 sq. ft., the brand has been clocking fantastic numbers year-on-year.
“To strengthen the entertainment mix further, we have introduced a new concept brand Craash across 12,000 sq. ft.- Snow World, Cricket, Football and Jungle Safari. VR Cricket and Augmented Reality concepts have also been introduced so as to cater to a relatively younger and tech-savvy generation,” says Khanna.
The third floor of the mall is dedicated to F&B. “Food and entertainment are the new anchors for malls and hence at Express Avenue food has taken the centerstage. We have been watching the shift in the consumption pattern very closely more skewed towards Food and Entertainment and hence we have chosen to strengthen our FEC offerings. The food court has been recently upgraded to redefine the consumer experience. Lots of popular brands has been introduced to bring in strong footfalls replacing the weaker brands,” Khanna adds.
KFC, Taco Bell, Arabian Hut, Street Food of Punjab Grill, Wow! Momos are some of the popular brands in the food court which have helped to get and retain footfalls in the mall. Other major crowd pullers include Nalaas Aapakadai, Wangs, Kapila Dasa for vegetarians, Entrée Restaurant, Exilir Bar, Chili’s, Domino’s Pizza and Burger King.
“Malls in India are undergoing a natural evolution. Food and entertainment are the new anchors of the mall. In this experience economy, there is a huge emphasis given by the shoppers on experiences vs accumulating stuff in food and entertainment fi t aptly. Entertainment allows the families to invest quality time with their children in varied forms of FEC which have come up in malls. Teenagers and adults alike are exploring different entertainment options other than the usual movie watching,” he states.
Future of Malls in India
Munish Khanna states that the future of malls in India seems to be robust provided it evolves and successfully harnesses three change drivers: the human element, technology, and commercial considerations.
“Shopping centres and malls are seen to be morphing into consumer engagement spaces (CESs) - transformed mixed-use commercial off erings designed to meet the needs of new and future generations of shoppers. Malls of tomorrow need to constantly evolve, innovate, leverage technology and stay relevant to the customer. Malls will need thought leadership to re-imagine space and customer,” he says.
“Malls of future could be of three types - Mixed Use Destination Centres, Retaildential Spaces and Luxury Centres. Malls of tomorrow will have to exhibit elements of discovery, education experience and entertainment,” he concludes.