New Delhi: Shopping Centres Association of India's (SCAI) Chairman Amitabh Taneja has said that reopening of malls and shopping centres is the immediate need for the sector to survive the financial stress brought upon by the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown.
Speaking to IANS, Taneja said that the reopening needs to come at least by the end of May, and other relief including the extension of the loan repayment moratorium would have to follow.
The industry body has also come up with a detailed document with its proposed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) including restricted timing and social distancing norms such as one customer per 75 square feet of the gross leasable area.
"The immediate (need) is opening of malls, at least allow the basic things to open, the book stores, like food is open, at least allow some baby products to open. Some movement should happen," he said.
He noted that if the shopping centres open up, businesses can resume and the cash flow comes in which would support the sector.
Taneja said that if the reopening is delayed and relief in terms of deferment of levies does not come up there may be large number of non-performing assets (NPA) in the sector.
"At least if it opens by end of May there is some hope that at least people will start sailing through at least if there is movement then there is hope. Some will say lets hold together and make sure NPAs don't happen. If this (reopening) keeps delaying then there is a serious issue."
Taneja said that SCAI has recently submitted its SOPs to the Centre and also to the state governments but it has got no response so far other than acknowledgement by a few.
According to the industry body, shopping centres are best positioned to provide a safe and hygienic environment along with accountability and enforcement of social distancing norms.
In the first phase of resumption of operations, the SOPs seek to open stores for infant clothing, eyewear, electronics and electrical, apparel, personal care and accessories, takeaway and home delivery services of food courts and restaurants among others.
Further, only 50 per cent staff would be working in the first phase.
It has proposed to fully operationalise food courts and food and beverage (F&B) outlets and multiplex and family entertainment centres would come in the third phase.
SCAI's proposed SOP also says that an occupancy ceiling for people would be introduced at 50 per cent of common areas and gross leasable areas. The food and beverage segment would reduce the occupancy to 50 per cent, it said.
Malls would also ensure that minimum 1.5 meters distancing measure is always maintained, it added.
Apart from sanitisation and disinfecting measures, the SOP has provided for infrared temperature checks at all entry points for both staff and customers.
It would be mandatory for all to wear masks at all times in the mall starting from the entry. "Non compliance will lead to denial to enter malls," it said.
Further, in an interesting move, the industry body has said that malls would have a small dedicated area on site to isolate potential positive cases.
Regarding the air conditioning, the SOP said that fresh air intake would be increased to at least 30 per cent, ensuring at least 30 per cent of fresh air circulation of treated air, among other measures.
The SCAI chairman further told IANS that the loan moratorium should be extended for 9-12 months.
In a letter to the Prime Minister in March, the organisation had sought short-term financing option for a period of 6 to 12 months, at lower interest rates to meet the increased working capital requirements and GST rebates among other relief measures.