Transformation of Indian high street retail

High streets and shopping malls in India have transformed from competitors into complementary players in the urban retail landscape

July 11, 2023

The advent of shopping malls brought significant changes to the Indian retail landscape and had a profound impact on high street shops. Traditionally, high streets were known for their bustling markets and vibrant street culture, but malls have emerged as centralised shopping destinations, offering a wide range of brands, amenities, and entertainment. However, with changing consumer preferences, the need for open space, and diverse retail experiences, high streets and shopping malls have found new way to coexist and add diversity to the urban retail landscape.

The recent evolution of high streets starts with higher value consumption, followed by the introduction of a brand pull store (anchor store) catering to the aspirations of shoppers. Eventually, these streets attract a diverse range of retailers, including mid to premium brands. Depending on primary and secondary catchment areas, such high streets ultimately attract luxury and aspirational brands. Examples include Khan Market in Delhi; Kala Ghoda in Mumbai; Koregaon Park in Pune as well as Khader Nawaz Khan Road in Chennai.

Factors influencing high streets in India

Improving infrastructure and convenience: Multi-parking facilities and the continuous improvement of public transport systems in cities have played a pivotal role in the thriving of high streets. Additionally, some luxury retail brands even provide full bouquet services, including valet which has boosted the popularity of high streets. For example, include Kala Ghoda, Mumbai; Kamla Nagar, Delhi; Central Avenue, Powai; Banjara Hills, Hyderabad.

Revitalized urban design: Pedestrian-friendly walkways, well-designed intersections focusing on landscape, and the incorporation of tensile roofing and foliage create comfortable and shaded environments. This encourages people to spend more time and engage with high street offerings. As seen in Flora Fountain, Mumbai; Mahatma Gandhi Road, Pune; Church Street, Bangalore; Connaught Place, Delhi.

Expanding purchasing power: As India's purchasing power continues to rise and the availability of high-end residential developments increases, the potential for multiple thriving high streets in the country grows to make them a mix of branded and non-branded retail offerings.

Open space requirement: There is an increased emphasis on open spaces within high streets to ensure safety and openness for shoppers. This has encouraged organised high street formats and open-layout shopping. Food and Beverage Services (F&B) is the leading category as they require character-driven spaces, flexible layouts, and a blend of indoor & outdoor to create vibrant social hubs and attract visitors.

Experiential shopping: Experiential shopping is a well-known perception related to malls until the high street brands started providing unique and immersive shopping experiences through interactive displays, captivating installations, and temporary pop-up events.

Improved visibility: Even though high streets are historically known to have higher rentals than grade-A malls, they are attractive to brands because of improved visibility. They offer architecturally magnificent buildings that are perfect for flagship stores, located near heritage sites or scenic seafronts, and have a premium attached, ultimately transforming them into an attraction of their own. For example, Khan Market, Delhi, is the most expensive high street in India with rentals up to INR 1,500 per sq ft/month.

Moving forward, it is certain that high streets will continue to remain relevant in the evolving market dynamics due to the diverse customer preferences, multiple facilities, and benefits offered along with the ever-increasing race for visibility and uniqueness.