With the impacts of COVID subsiding, malls in Kathmandu are on recovery path.
Back in 2021, in the wake of the second wave of the pandemic, more than 30 retail outlet owners left the Kathmandu Mall. Likewise, Civil Mall also witnessed more than 15 stores shutting down due to the impacts of the pandemic. While some units at CCTC Mall in Sundhara have been put up for auction, three newly opened malls - Eyeplex, 1 Durbar Mall, and Chhaya Center, which were once hustling and bustling with crowds, are seeing their stalls vacant.
Sushma Sharma, President of Kathmandu Mall, shared that the businesses at malls and shopping centres were in a state of complete closure for nine months during the first and second waves of the pandemic. Now, with the impacts subsiding, she informed New Business Age that business has started to gradually pick up.
For small businesses, there had never been a more frightening time. COIVD and China border closure dealt a double blow to these businesses which largely retail Chinese products.
The market is showing signs of improvement, and vendors and retailers are optimistic and expecting the market to pick up speed which will eventually bring the businesses to malls, said Sharma. Last year, more than 50 shops operating in Kathmandu Mall shut down due to the pandemic and the closure of China border. The rent in Kathmandu Mall is between Rs 50,000 and Rs 200,000 inclusive of various charges including car parking.
At one point, the businesses of big shopping malls and supermarkets in the main business centres of Kathmandu declined by about 75%. The pandemic left the shops with no other option but to shut down as they couldn't afford to pay the expensive rent. However, with the COVID subsiding, malls are slowly getting back into their business.
Chhaya Center Thamel, which threw its doors open in 2019, was doing well before the pandemic. Today, 80% of the space has been sold out to different owners, and the remaining 20% space is owned by Chhaya Center which it rents out.
Joseph Sebastian, the COO of Chhaya Center, joined the team in April last year before the second wave of the pandemic began. He told New Business Age that the complex was slowly coming out of the shadow of the pandemic.
“My colleagues shared that the mall was doing well, there were lots of events going on with all the shops occupied, and there was a lot of hustle and bustle going on. And, then the pandemic hit the world, and people started to lose their businesses,” Sebastian said. “No one is prepared for such a drastic turn of events. I think no one had ever thought the pandemic would happen. Eventually, running out of business, people started to leave the space. The complex is still trying to revive the effects.”
Chhaya Center is spread over 15 ropani of land and is built with a staggering Rs 5 billion investment. After the pandemic, the business of Chhaya Center was gradually picking up in June last year when the government enforced a smart lockdown and made the disruption.
People are holding back their investment waiting for the COVID to subside completely, Sebastian said. “Currently, the ground and first floor are almost occupied. VFS has helped us to get the footfall of 6-7,000 people daily. We also have QFX here, and when there is a good movie like RRR and KGF, amazing traffic of movie lovers comes in. There are at least 15 shows a day,” he added.
There are a total of 219 stalls at Chhaya Center, out of which around 80% are sold out and are on rent. Of them, only around 70 shops are open to business. The rental charge at the complex is Rs 300 per square foot on the ground floor and Rs 250 per square foot on the first floor. The rental charge is lower for stalls on higher floors.
“Some owners of the stalls are so busy that they forget they have a space in Chhaya Center. That is why you see a lot of shops vacant. They are too busy handling their businesses,” Sebastian said. “One of our directors, Kishor Gurung, is working on getting in people to rent out the vacant space. This process is going to take at least 3-4 months. We are looking at June to July for this place to start rocking.”
Many shops moved out of malls in search of cheaper rents. Malls were expecting 2020 to be a harbinger of new hopes and beginnings. However, the pandemic threw the world upside down, sowing uncertainty, loss, and panic in shops and mall operators.
Eyeplex Mall situated in the prime area of New Baneshwar was inaugurated in 2019 with the motto to share happiness. It, too, bore the brunt of the pandemic. However, the mall is gradually getting its business back. A representative of the mall informed New Business Age that Eyeplex was slowly filling up with businesses and the crowd. There are currently only a few spaces vacant which are likely to be packed soon, the representative added
The mall can accommodate 40-50 shops, while it also houses One Cinema - a multiplex, and KFC and Pizza Hut outlets.
Likewise, 1 Durbar Mall in Durbarmarg, which once wore a deserted look, is gradually filling up. Almost 90% of rental space in the mall has been filled up. It is drawing a footfall of 2,000-2,500 daily.
Meanwhile, Civil Mall in Sundhara, which is under renovation, has around 30% out of 200 stalls vacant. Size of stalls at Civil Mall range from 250-300 sq foot to 460 sq foot. Civil Mall also houses QFX’s biggest cinema - Auditorium 1 Platinum having a capacity of 459 seats.
“Rental charge at Civil Mall is Rs 422 per sq foot on the ground and first floors. “Per square foot rental charge is Rs 298 on the second floor, Rs 270 on the third floor, Rs 213 on the fourth floor, and Rs 185 on the fifth floor,” Rekha Magar, administrative manager of Civil Mall, said.
“Somes spaces are lying vacant because the mall is undergoing renovation. We are currently in the recovery phase,” she said, adding that the mall draws footfall of a minimum of 1,000 daily.