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The Future of Retail Spaces

With online shopping the trend, warehouses and logistics parks to store retail products are gaining more importance. By ZAIN FAROOK – Director, Silverline Realty.

When life is increasingly getting glued to the virtual world with work transpiring through the ubiquitous internet portals, is it surprising that choices and in turn purchases are done online? With physical meetings and exchanges that will soon see a slower pace, online shopping is surely seen catching up and increasingly becoming a way of life.

While most consultants in the real estate market too aver that matters are unfolding online, a question arises: what will happen to the multiple malls that have been mushrooming across major metros, and in tier-II cities and tier-III cities? Will these spaces continue to see footfall or will they face a slow fading out, as many are seen metamorphosing into experience centres?

We are witnessing a massive transformation, perched as it is on the tip of change, a change that will be seen as a renaissance, hitherto identified with. This brings us back to the same question. What will happen to the countless retail spaces that dot the cities?

Resource base: A point worth noting here is the need for a resource base to cater to this increasingly popular online shopping. To cater to this online market, suppliers require large spaces in strategic locations to stock their goods, run the office where the stock is managed and arrange for speedy, timely disposal to where the orders have been placed. There is a requirement for large logistic parks which will stock the material and arrange for shipment to addresses from where the order arises.

Logistics is in fact one of the most critical factors in the e-commerce space, absorbing as it does a major chunk of the investments in the retail segment globally. United States online retail giant, Amazon, has diverted half its investment in India to building its logistics capabilities. Amazon India runs the largest e-commerce warehouse in the country, in Telangana, spanning 400,000 sq. ft.

The United States, known for its high retail transactions, is experiencing a massive switch to online shopping, with sales having crossed $459 billion in 2017 by Forrester Research, which translated to roughly 12.9 per cent of the projected total retail sales. Forrester further estimates that this will move up to 17 per cent by 2022. Not surprisingly, many malls in the U.S. are already looking to adapt to the altered landscape. Does that mean the mall culture is fading away? Not really. But the old mall culture certainly is, or is in the process of moving out.

In this altered scenario, it is not surprising to see home grown e-commerce major like Flipkart planning to set up a 4.5 million sq. ft logistics park in Bengaluru. The integrated park spread across 100 acres, expected to be one of its kind in the country, is all set to house multiple warehouses that will rival in size those set up by Amazon in the U.S. and Alibaba in China.

Great Demand

Interestingly, considering the rate at which online retail sales is picking up in India, and certainly so in the tech capital Bengaluru, it is estimated that over the next 10 years, the requirement for warehousing space to cater to this demand in Bengaluru alone would be 4.5 million sq. ft. This means the massive logistics park on the anvil would be adequate merely to serve the city alone, calling for similar units in other regions of the country.

So what does this spell for retail real estate? Will future developments veer less towards creating retail outlets? Will there be more warehouses and logistics parks? What will happen to the malls that have mushroomed in various parts of the city? Will they have to shut down?

The answer is yes and no. While certainly the future will see less takers for conventional malls and traditional retail spaces, malls are here to stay. The spaces will transform to accommodate more experience centres, but retail will continue, albeit at a lower expanse, as compared to the past. Mall culture will continue to prevail though in an altered state where multiplexes, food courts and eateries, entertainment zones and spas will continue to attract with a lower play of retail outlets.

Designer retail and skilled retail ware will continue to command traditional retail space. Standard items will, however, recede from traditional retail stores, moving more to the online segment. Massive transformation is on the cards, though the basic fabric of conventional retail will not be completely wiped out.

Bengaluru leads housing sales in Q2

Bengaluru has witnessed highest sales in residential units across the country during the second quarter of 2018, which was aided by renewed interest from IT/ITeS professionals owing to mitigated job risks in the IT sector. The tech city has seen a jump of 32% in the housing sales between April and June 2018 at 14,600 units compared with 11,050 units sold during the same period a year ago.

“The overall favourable economic environment and increased commercial activity in the city led by the IT/ITeS
sectors,residential activity has been gaining momentum,” Anuj Puri, Chairman, Anarock Property Consultants
said.The second highest growth was seen by Hyderabad — although less than half the growth Bengaluru has seen. The city saw sales of 4,750 units in the quarter, up 15.9% from 4,100 units in the year-ago period.

Other than, Bengaluru andHyderabad, only Kolkata saw the growth in the housing sales, albeit a marginal 5%
jump. “Developers are working hard on clearing unsold inventory with attractive schemes, freebies and
discounts. Moreover,the positive impact of the policy reforms including RERA and GST have begun to bear fruit,”
Puri said.

During last year,the city’s job market was hit terribly as most of the Tier-I and Tier-II IT companies resorted to job cuts, due to increasing costs arising out of global headwinds and uncertainties. Most of the city-based IT majors, including Infosys andWipro, had reported stress on their margins.

Additionally, with increased commercial activity in the city led by the technology sector,residential activity has
been gaining momentum over the last six months.

The jump in residential unit sales has helped Bengaluru surpass Delhi-NCR, which has seen 2.6% decline in its
sales to 11,150 units during the period.

In terms of new launches during the quarter, Bengaluru saw a jump of 153% year-on-year. The property developers added 8,800 new dwelling units between April and June, compared with 3,450 units in the  corresponding quarter last year. The aordable housing segment constituted about 25% of the overall supply at 2,150 units. On an all-India basis,the housing market continued to be dominated by the aordable
and mid-priced segment,with 77% of launches (38,600 units) being added in the budget category of less than Rs 80 lakh, according to Anarock.

“If we delve deeper, aordable segment comprised of a whopping 46% share of the total new launches inQ2
2018,” Puri added.

China to crack down on property irregularities in 30 major cities

BEIJING: China said on Thursday it would renew efforts to crack down on property irregularities in 30 major cities from July to end-December, mobilizing powers from seven major Chinese government agencies in a concerted effort to rein in rising prices.

The country’s property market has been heating up lately, despite intensifying official curbs, prompting several local governments to announce new rules this month to limit companies from purchases.

China’s new home prices in May posted their fastest growth in nearly a year, extending their 38 months of price appreciation. More than 100 cities had tightened the market to varying degrees over the past two years.

The market’s surprising resilience underscores rampant fraud in the sector that has allowed buyers to skirt existing restrictions, and contrasts with persistent stock market weakness as tensions with the United States over trade dims China’s economic outlook.

Chinese shares fell to new two-year lows on Thursday, staying on course for their worst monthly performance in years.

China’s property market began to boom in early 2016 after the central government pumped up credit and relaxed housing curbs to stabilise the economy in the wake of the 2015/2016 stock market crash.

The crackdown, which would be carried out by government entities including the housing ministry and the Ministry of Public Security, and the banking and insurance regulators, would focus on stemming speculation, cracking down on illegal agencies and developers, and fake advertisements.

A notice published on the housing ministry’s website said targeted irregularities include manipulating prices, deliberately holding off sales, illegally providing loans for down payment and publishing false price information that mislead buyers.

The four largest top-tier cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, and provincial capitals such as Wuhan and Chengdu, and also smaller cities, such as Yichang and Foshan, are among the 30 that will be scrutinised, the notice said.

While policymakers have been adamant in controlling run-away prices, they have also been careful not to tap on the brakes too hard, as real estate remains a major driver of the economy. Growth in the world’s second-largest economy is at risk of slowing as the authorities try to tame rapid domestic credit growth at a time when a full-blown trade war with the United States could hurt the economic outlook.

The United States will begin collecting 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods starting on July 6, and will take steps to launch tariffs on 284 new product lines.

To cushion the economy, China’s central bank said on Sunday it would cut the amount of cash that some banks must hold as reserves, releasing $108 billion in liquidity, to accelerate the pace of debt-for-equity swaps and spur lending to smaller firms.

While the People’s Bank of China has specified the use of the funds, analysts and economists are concerned that some would inevitably flow into “unproductive, traditional sectors” such as real estate.

“The phenomenon of chaotic debt issuance and overly stimulating the property market make us worried that China’s economy is back to the traditional (credit-fuelled) development model,” researchers at Bank of China said in a report.

China’s state planner said on Wednesday it would restrict real estate developers from using funds raised via foreign debt for real estate investments, warning that their overseas debt issuance had been growing too quickly. (Additional reporting by Shu Zhang Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

About 500 property registrations in Tamil Nadu rejected

CHENNAI: A fortnight after verification of parent documents for new property registrations was made mandatory, registration of about 500 land documents has been rejected across the state. Of these, 350 pertained to fraudulent parent documents, while registrations for the rest could not be facilitated due to absence of parent documents. Sub-registrar offices in Chennai and suburbs witnessed highest attempt to register property using fraudulent parent documents in Tamil Nadu.

Registration department sources said sub-registrars needed to go an extra mile to ensure that submitted documents were genuine.

As per the revised rules, verification of parent documents by the sub-registrars concerned is a compulsory procedure for (property) sale deeds. The sub-registrar must sign on the first page of the parent document as a mark of completing the task with due diligence, which would be scanned and maintained in the registration department. “During such verifications, about 350 parent documents were detected to be forged,” registration department official said.

This apart, nearly 150 land registrations could be not carried out due to non-availability of parent documents for various reasons including missing owners.

Among the 500 rejected documents, according to sources, 75% were recorded in the sub-registrar offices of Chennai and its peripheries. “Fraudulent parent documents both on individual houses and plots were relatively high in the city and suburbs,” the official said. However, the sub-registrars did not file any complaint with police, sources added.

In a recent case of fraudulent creation of Power of Attorney (PoA) for a two ground property, the sub-registrar of Madhavaram in north Chennai said he had seen the parent document before facilitating the PoA. But, official sources said the parent document was not verified, and a fake PoA was registered by forging the identity proof of the original owner of the property with the connivance of the official, sources added. The crime branch police has registered a case, in which the sub-registrar has been made an accused.

The registration department mandated verification of parent documents for registering properties from June 7 to eliminate registrations using forged documents. In case the parent documents are mortgaged with banks, a statement from the financial institutions should be submitted.

Noting that a sub-registrar would be responsible for any discrepancies in property registrations under his purview, sources said they would also be held accountable and action taken.

Financial limit of smart city SPVs enhanced in Tamil Nadu

CHENNAI: The powers of the special purpose vehicles formed under the smart city project have been enhanced in Tamil Nadu as per an order issued by the municipal administration and water supply department.

The boards formed by various smart city will have a revised financial limit for smart city projects/ proposals. The administrative sanction power for other corporations, except Chennai, has been increased from Rs 1.35 crore to Rs 3 crore.

The Greater Chennai Corporation can pass projects up to Rs 25 crore. The earlier upper limit was Rs 10 crore.

The commissioner of municipal administration can now sanction projects up to Rs 15 crore, and not Rs 6.5 crore as earlier. The same financial limits apply for the special purpose vehicles as well.

A special committee headed by the chairman and managing director of the Tamil Nadu Urban Finance and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, commissioner of Greater Chennai Corporation, commissioner of municipal administration and additional secretary to government (finance department) passed the order on Wednesday.

The officials from corporations have welcomed the decision as they said, this was one of the major reasons for the delay in implementation of the project.

“Earlier, we had to travel to Chennai and represent the projects in front of the high-powered project sanctioning committee. Now this will expedite the projects,” said a Coimbatore Corporation official.

Hong Kong set to Impose Vacancy Tax on Empty New Flats

HONG KONG: Hong Kong proposed a vacancy tax on empty new homes on Friday in an attempt to discourage developers from hoarding, but analysts expect the measure to have little impact on prices in the world’s least affordable property market.

The tax, at 200 % of a newly built unit’s rateable value, which is the estimated annual rental value of a property, will need to be approved by the city’s Legislative Council, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

The policy will not be applied on resold flats.

Hong Kong has one of the least affordable housing markets in the world and private home prices have been on a record-breaking run for 19 consecutive months, fuelling discontent among residents.

Under the proposed measure, developers would have to report the status of their new flats to the government annually, and the additional tax would be slapped on flats that had been left vacant for six out of the past 12 months.

Lam said the property market currently has at least 9,000 empty new flats, including some that were completed five years ago.

“Today, when the housing supply is so tight and the demands for ownership are so strong, it is hard to understand why so many flats are left empty,” she said.

Lam also said the government would modify a Pre-sale Consent Scheme so that developers would have to push out at least 20 percent of their flats during pre-sales.

“In recent years we see flats are sold in the way toothpaste is squeezed out of the tube,” Lam said. “This will be unacceptable in the future.”

The government said nine plots of land previously allocated for private homes would now be used for public housing.

A vacancy tax could be a double-edged sword for the housing market, according to property consultancy JLL.

“Developers may consider funnelling the additional costs to buyers to offset the vacancy tax, leveraging on the strong levels of demand in the market,” Ingrid Cheh, associate director of research department at JLL, said this week. ( Editing by Anne Marie Roantree & Shri Navaratnam)

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