Decision to open shopping centres postponed until July 1, but they already being disinfected

The damage caused by the quarter-long downtime is “very significant”

As Realnoe Vremya found out, some shopping centres in Kazan have started to disinfect stores in the hope of opening soon. The moment for leaseholders — and there are two and a half thousand of them in major shopping centres in Kazan, and they provide employment for 12,500 people — is long-awaited and exciting. Meanwhile, on 19 June in the office of Rospotrebnadzor for Tatarstan said that before July 1 the department will not even begin to consider the transition to the third stage of removing restrictive measures, which implies the opening of shopping centres. Realnoe Vremya decided to find out when shopping centres are expected to resume operation, which leaseholders most often complain to the business ombudsman of the Republic of Tatarstan, and how experts assess the likelihood of market recovery.

“Only by July 1 it will become clear when we will be able to reach the third stage”

On 19 June, the deputy head of the Department of Rospotrebnadzor for the Republic of Tatarstan, Lyubov Avdonina, answering the question of Realnoe Vremya, said that shopping centres can fully open only at the third stage of removing restrictive measures. By the way, now Tatarstan is being on the first stage but is preparing for the second — the relevant documents are under consideration in the federal Rospotrebnadzor.

Three main indicators are taken into account to consider the possibility of further easing: prevalence rate, free bed capacity, and coverage of the population with COVID-19 testing. “Today, these indicators correspond to the second stage in the republic. If the agreement in Rospotrebnadzor is reached, we will proceed to it," Avdonina reported. “We moved to the first stage from June 1. By the end of this week, we moved to the second one. It is necessary at least two weeks of monitoring when the indicators are stable. That is, until July 1, we will monitor the situation, and by this time it will be clear by what date we will be able to reach the third stage.”

The deputy head of the Department of Rospotrebnadzor clarified that to move to the third stage, the prevalence rate (the number of cases over the past 4 days divided by the number of cases over the previous 4 days) must be 0,5 (currently in Tatarstan — 0,8). As previously explained by the head of Rospotrebnadzor for Tatarstan Marina Patyashina, to achieve this indicator, the number of new cases per day in the republic must decrease to 20-30. As for the other two conditions for the transition to the third stage, the number of available beds must reach at least 50 percent, and the testing rate must be 120 per 100,000 people.

Lyubov Avdonina said that shopping centres can fully open only at the third stage of removing restrictive measures. Now Tatarstan is on the firs stage but is preparing for the second. Photo: tatar-inform.ru

According to Lyubov Avdonina, there are guidelines for the operation of retail facilities, approved by chief sanitary doctor of the Russian Federation Anna Popova, posted on the official website of Rospotrebnadzor. “The format of trading cantres will be exactly the same as in all other areas of activity that have already opened. It implies maintaining a social distance, the possibility to disinfect hands with antiseptics in public areas, and the mandatory wearing of masks and gloves when visiting the shopping centre. Employees are required to use masks, morning filters for detecting temperature or any catarrhal symptoms," she listed.

“We are in an information vacuum”

Meanwhile, as it became known to Realnoe Vremya, this week the pavilions were disinfected in Koltso shopping centre. “This means that Koltso may open on June 20-21," our source said.

Koltso itself confirmed that all premises are being disinfected in the shopping centre. The administrator of the shopping centre, Svetlana Sevastyanova, said that the disinfection in the mall is carried out regularly, but if previously only the common areas and corridors were disinfected, this time tenants have been invited — disinfection is also carried out in stores.

The disinfection in Koltso is carried out regularly, but if previously only the common areas and corridors were disinfected, then this time tenants were invited — disinfection is also carried out in stores. Photo: Ilya Repin

Sevastyanova noted that this is really an element of preparing the shopping centre for opening. “But there is no exact date yet. Maybe they will open on July 1st, or maybe on 15th," she said.

Realnoe Vremya asked representatives of other shopping centres about how they are preparing for the possible resumption of their work. For example, the manager of Mega in Kazan, Liana Sirazetdinova, said that there is no reason to prepare for the opening yet. “We are waiting for an official order," she said, adding that disinfection in the mall is carried out regularly.

Inna Trunova, the representative of Park House, said that she had no information on disinfection, and the shopping centre would open “maybe in early July”.

The reception of Tandem also reported that no preparations are being made for the opening, and the shopping centre is waiting for a government decree. Yuzhny has not responded to the request of Realnoe Vremya.

Roman Kotenkov, the manager of the nearest neighbour of Koltso, Respublika shopping centre, also said that both owners of shopping centres and tenants are “in daily readiness [for opening]".

The owners of shopping centres and tenants are “in daily readiness for opening”. Photo: Ilya Repin

“As the manager of the shopping centre, I first prepared for that we will start working on June 1. Then we expected to start working on June 15. These dates are passing, but unfortunately nothing moves. Now it is difficult for both owners and tenants — we are in an information vacuum. It would be much easier if the government held a press conference where they would name some reference dates when the industry would start working. This would remove the general tension in the business community with regard to the situation of uncertainty about when we should open up. Everyone is waiting. I don't know an exact date. Now we are preparing to open from next week, and if we do not open from next week, we will wait for July 1," said Kotenkov.

All shopping centres want to open and therefore are ready to comply with all the requirements of Rospotrebnadzor, he stressed.

“A frequent request — the request to allow the shopping centre to resume operation”

As told to Realnoe Vremya by head of the public reception of the Ombudsman under the President of Tatarstan on protection of the rights of entrepreneurs Filipp Zarubin, the agency receives requests from organized groups of tenants from most of the shopping centres asking for assistance in solving their problems. “Since we are talking about a dispute between economic entities, that is, entrepreneurs on both sides, we cannot interfere in the conflict on one or the other side. But we designate the way to resolve the situation. Back in April, we prepared flowcharts that showed exactly what the tenant should do if the landlord does not make concessions to him or forbids taking the tenant's belongings from the shopping centre. Tenants are often complaining that landlords are avoiding contact with them. But when both sides are ready to negotiate, we always try to help find a common language and act as moderators," he said.

According to the press service of the business ombudsman of the Republic of Tatarstan, “from March to June, we received more than 9,000 requests on various topics to the hotline”. There were 36 written and 907 oral appeals on the subject of shopping centres. The most active complainants are from Novaya Tura, Tandem, Gulliver, Yuzhny, and XL. “They mostly complain that they do not meet the requirements of tenants, do not reduce the rent, do not get in touch," the source said.

Most likely, it will be possible to assess the damage caused by the shopping center's downtime during the period of restrictive measures only after filing in income tax systems. Photo: Dmitry Reznov

The same problem was tried to discuss on 19 June in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Tatarstan.

Answering the question of Realnoe Vremya about the number of complaints from the heads of shopping centres and entrepreneurs working in them, the ministry of economy of Tatarstan reported that appeals on this topic are received quite often. What is more, from both landlords and tenants. In particular, the appeals concern the issues of reducing the amount of tax payments, deferring or cancelling lease payments.

“A frequent request — the request to allow the shopping centre to resume operation. However, this issue remains open due to the epidemiological situation," the ministry noted.

“It's time to open. Otherwise the industry will simply die”

Murat Akhmerov, the director general of the commercial real estate brokerage company A-Development, admits that it seems surprising to him that when COVID-19 was affecting 17 people a day everyone was sitting on self-isolation, but when the incidence reached 70 cases — the restrictions began to be relaxed.

“Nevertheless, it is right to open shopping centres but observing precautions — limiting the number of people in the hall, necessarily distributing masks and gloves, dividing the room into certain zones," said the source of Realnoe Vremya. “It's time to open for them, otherwise the industry will simply die. Three months of closure will hit the industry very hard. It is even difficult to guess how long it will take to recover, for example, for catering — up to 15-20 per cent will be forced to close and leave the market. Maybe some will open, look and, if there is no hype of deferred demand, close. I don't think there will be much of it. It is clear that someone's clothes have become worn out, and it will be necessary to buy new ones. But it is unlikely to be like a new year's rush.”

It is right to open a shopping centre but taking precautions — limiting the number of people in the hall, necessarily distributing masks and gloves, dividing the room into certain zones, Murat Akhmerov believes. Photo: Roman Khasaev

Speaking about tenants of shopping centкуs that have a separate entrance and are allowed to open, Akhmerov suggested that most of them have fallen in revenue. ЭThere is an option with a temporary transition to a percentage of the turnover — at least until the end of the year. I think this trend will gain momentum. Starting next year, it will be possible to return to betting. Because the market will not recover so easily, and everything is still the same. The economy sagged, people spent their money then took out loans. And now buying good expensive clothes and the like… I think this will not happen en masse," the expert believes.

As for those tenants who are still not working, the fair solution would be, in the opinion of the interlocutor, not to charge them rent. “If you do not work, there is no income, why do you take money for rent? From where? Then this is the wrong business model. At least a 50 percent discount is needed," he is convinced.

According to Akhmerov, the catering department of one of the shopping centres presented an ultimatum to the management of the shopping centre: “We will move out and let everyone know so that no one else will come to you again.” “A tenant is like a cow that gives milk. You are going to just 'kill' it — and tomorrow you will have no one. Tenants will not forgive if the management of the shopping centre says: “I don't care where you get the money, I don't care, I have my own problems.” In general, tenants will not forgive this attitude," Akhmerov predicts.

Closed quarter

Let us remind that all shopping and entertainment centres and complexes, with the exception of departments that sell products and essential goods, have been closed in Tatarstan since March 28. The closure of shopping centres was called one of the important measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

All shopping and entertainment centres and complexes, with the exception of departments that sell products and essential goods, have been closed in Tatarstan since March 28. Photo: Ilya Repin

Since May 12, organizations in the service sector and facilities that sell non-food products, small clothing and footwear stores, home appliances with an area of up to 400 square metres with a separate entrance, car dealerships, beauty salons, spas, dry cleaners, repair shops have resumed work in the republic.

On June 9, Deputy of the State Council of Tatarstan, head of the regional department of Fair Russia party in the republic Almir Mikheev addressed the president of Tatarstan with a request to open shopping centres. He noted that shopping centres are opening in Moscow, Bashkiria and Kirov Oblast. According to the deputy, they can be opened in Tatarstan, because thanks to the measures taken to counteract infection, the situation with coronavirus in the region is better than in the above-mentioned regions.

Tatarstan Business Ombudsman Farid Abdulganiev also took a similar initiative at the end of April. Then he declared his readiness to develop flowcharts and checklists together with the relevant ministries for a more comfortable resumption of work.

By Lilia Akhkiyamova, Kristina Ivanova