Saturday, October 20, 2012

What does it take to keep malls running for 24 hours?

Retailers, government bodies and mall operators figure out logistics of keeping malls running for 24 hours

Dubai: Retailers, mall management and various government departments have joined efforts to figure out the logistical challenges of the 24-hour Eid Al Adha shopping initiative that began yesterday as malls remain open around the clock this weekend.

alls have hired up to 25 per cent more cleaning, maintenance and security staff outsourced from labour supply companies and assigned extended hours to existing staff to deal with the expected influx of people, Eisa Adam, board of directors member on the Dubai Shopping Malls Group, told Gulf News.
Customer Service staff will also work extended periods of up to six hours on top of their 48 hours a week schedule to meet shoppers’ requirements, he said.
One of the logistical challenges is the delivery of supplies to stores, a process that goes on after-hours long after the last shopper leaves.
“In normal hours, we don’t allow our tenants to replenish supply during hours, but now we have to be flexible and do this within shopping hours. So we want our customers to bear with us. Maybe you will see some trolleys or big boxes in the malls passing by,” he said.
The main challenge ahead is to ensure healthy footfall during the late hours of the night.
“We have to pull people to come to our malls after midnight, to make the malls more attractive, have more entertainment and promotions, have more life in the shopping malls, and get shop keepers excited about this,” he said.
So will people actually go to the mall at 4am?
“People will come to see if it will work. This will add to the flavour,” he said, adding that restaurants are likely to be the busiest outlets at 4am or 5am.
The City Centre malls will ensure that their staff is compensated for overtime, said Fouad Sharaf, senior director of asset management of shopping malls at Majid Al Futtaim Properties.
“The mall is actually already operating 24-hours, with security and soft services like cleaning and maintenance operating in the mall 24-7, throughout the year. With this in mind, the additional costs are related to utilities expenses and ensuring that our Customer Service staff are compensated appropriately for their overtime,” he said.
Retailers are pulling staff from their stores in other emirates to work in Dubai and cover the extra hours or hire temporary staff and students — a step permitted by a new directive from the Ministry of Labour.
“We had to relook at all our staffing plans and revise it where required. Additional shifts have been incorporated to cover the extended hours. Where possible existing staff were allocated to cover the extended hours, but we will also give temporary employment opportunities to students and others for the duration of the Eid celebrations. Every effort has been made to adhere to the Government’s initiative, yet not unnecessarily inconvenience our employees. But we make sure not to overload our employee,” said Esmail Al Fahim, Group Commercial Manager of Paris Gallery.
Temporary work permits
The Ministry of Labour (MOL) announced the issuance of temporary work permits free of charge to the shopping malls in Dubai so they can hire additional workers for one month.
“Communication regarding this initiative from the MOL is still in progress. Once clarified we will of course hope to benefit from saving on the operational expenses. This seems to be a very positive step from the MOL and should be very well received by the private sector in general,” Al Fahim said.
DEPE has waived all fees for participating retailers in the Dubai 24 hours shopping campaign.
The DED has also assigned 50 of its inspectors to monitor the campaign across all malls and tackle consumer complaints, according to Laila Suhail, the chief executive of DEPE.
“The ‘Dubai 24 hours Shopping’ initiative is a new scheme, not only to Dubai, but to the whole region... Hence, we have to wait and see what exactly would be the impact of such a step, but overall, we feel that this step has added a lot of excitement and anticipation to the retail sector, and we are sure that it will also add to the festive mood of the city and attract shoppers to the malls driven by the excitement of experiencing shopping in unusual hours,” she said.

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