After big-ticket exits,Brigade Rd recovering

The first and second waves of the pandemic had forced 28% of businesses to shut down, but the numbers are looking up again
Last Updated 10 May 2022, 18:48 IST

About 35 of 125 stores on Brigade Road had shut down during the pandemic, and 15 of the spaces are back in business now.

The Brigade Shop and Establishments Association says the businesses had exited over the last two years, citing high rents. These included big brands like Flying Machine, VOI Jeans, Raymond, Florsheim, Indian Terrain, True Blue, and Pizza Hut.

“Now, only 20 spots are vacant,” secretary Suhail Yusuff says. In his estimate, half of the pre-pandemic business has returned.

Premium sportswear label Under Armour and menswear brand Rare Rabbit have just opened their stores on Brigade Road. One Plus has unveiled its biggest experience store where Rex cinema once stood. Puma is renovating its outlet. “And KFC is going to be back,” says Suhail. At Rs 200-250 per sft, the rents on Brigade Road are steep and most landowners are not willing to lower it, he says. “They don’t want to enter into revenue-sharing either. Online shopping has hit the offline business badly and they are aware of that,” he adds.

Deepak K Motwani of Mota Royal Arcade, a multi-floor shopping complex, says owners are now looking for more resilient businesses. “Anybody could do business on the Brigade Road earlier... But now landowners want players who are stronger in terms of money, product and relevance so that even if they have to close for some time, they will still be in demand,” he says.

Some landowners are doing away with force majeure, a clause that frees the tenant from fulfilling a contract under unforeseen circumstances like a war or an epidemic, Deepak informs.

High street still

Deepak disagrees with people who say Brigade Road is no longer the high street because some big brands have exited. “We have nine experience stores on this street, which is unheard of. Brands do their research putting in so much money,” he makes his case.

But new stores are not looking for turnover as much as brand publicity, says Suhail, adding that “being on Brigade Road is a big thing.”

However, impulsive shopping has fallen as Covid-19 has upended incomes and employment, say business owners.

Mohammed Raees, salesman at Brigade Trendz, a fashion store, says, “Many used to come looking for one item but walked away with more, billing Rs 4,000-Rs 5,000. Now the maximum purchase size is Rs 1,000 — they buy only what is necessary and planned.”

A trainer from a fitness wear showroom adds, “Earlier, many would not think before purchasing a Rs 20,000-shoe. Now, most are going for products in the Rs 4,000-Rs5,000.” Out of 100 walk-ins at this store, 20-30 would end up buying in the past. “Now, that number is about 15 and we have to talk a lot more to convince them to buy,” he says.

Walk-ins dip

The above-mentioned fitness wear store has seen a “30% degrowth in walk-ins” because the pandemic has hit the influx of foreign and NRI tourists, their main customers on this street. Sales at a Kashmiri handicraft store inside 5th Avenue Mall have become a trickle for the same reason.

Fewer walk-ins also point to the changing retail landscape. Brigade Road used to be the major shopping destination for high-end brands but today, it is one among the many, observes Chethan A, who works at a premium activewear store. “So many malls have come up. And different areas have their shopping streets. For instance, Indiranagar (not too far) is a competition for us. It has a good number of branded stores, and also ample parking unlike around the Brigade Road,” he says. Brigade Road and Commercial Street would see movement of shoppers between them but they are now deterred by Metro construction, he adds.

Then there is the boom of online shopping. When we visited La Bamba Fashions, owner Zain Masood Sait was busy dispatching an online order. His online to offline sales ratio is 1:3 but he explains why shops prefer walk-ins: “People shop selectively online, one product or so. Offline visits lend to bulk shopping.”

The footfalls at Zain’s stores — he has two on Brigade Road — had climbed back early this year. But it has dipped by 20% since the scare of a fourth wave emerged and mask-wearing was made compulsory last week.

Credit cycle

Many retailers on Brigade Road are stocking up sparingly. Zain Masood Sait, who runs a fashion store, explains, “Earlier, we had a credit period of 45-60 days to repay to the wholesalers, so we used to pick up stocks in bulk. Now they want us to pay with cash straight up, so we are buying only what we need, once every two or three months.”

To keep the cash registers ringing, the store put up a long sale, for
the first time in 35 years of its

(Published 10 May 2022, 18:46 IST)

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