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One Size Fits All

South India’s LuLu International Shopping Mall aims to offer everything under a single, sizeable roof




Visitors to LuLu International Shopping Mall in South India’s state of Kerala certainly aren’t lacking in entertainment options: there’s a 5000-square-foot ice skating rink, a 12-lane bowling alley, a nine-screen movie theater, a roller coaster and a mammoth food court with three fine-dining restaurants, all serving up cuisine from around the globe. Oh, yes, there’s retail, too – more than 200 stores, in fact – plus a 278,000-square-foot, ground-level hypermarket where shoppers can snag an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, breads and beyond.

LuLu, owned by the Abu Dhabi-based Emke Group, opened in the city of Kochi, India, in early 2013 under the command of Emke’s managing director (and Kerala native) Yusuffali M.A., whose retail and development CV includes launching 18 malls and 106 hypermarkets across multiple countries. “Most Keralites who have been to the [United Arab Emirates] have had the ‘LuLu experience,’ which they like to carry along with pride,” says Nishad Abdul, retail business head for the Emke-affiliated LuLu International Group. There are multiple LuLu locations throughout the UAE. And, Abdul says, “Keralites have continuously voiced their dream of seeing a LuLu in their hometown.” Yusuffali, a non-resident Indian (or NRI, whom Abdul notes have begun investing back into India), helped make that happen.

With a gross floor area measuring approximately 2.5 million square feet, the tri-level LuLu mall is the latest of these grandiose retail developments to open in Kochi. The five-floor Oberon Mall first set up shop in 2008 and two additional retail behemoths, The Great India Place and The Forum Thomsun Mall, are currently in the works.

These large-scale shopping meccas’ massive footprints and desire to offer the customer everything from shopping to supping to swirling on ice rinks creates a challenge: How do you ensure that shoppers visit every part of your mall? To achieve proper customer circulation throughout LuLu, the team strategically placed escalators and elevators and worked on a zoning plan.

For example, the ground floor hosts the premium stores (jewelry, high-end watches and accessories, international fashion brands, sari showrooms and the hypermarket), while the first floor zoning focuses on men’s and women’s departments and accessories. On the second floor, you’ll find sportswear, traditional Kerala brands and a multiplex, while the third floor houses the food court and entertainment (roller coaster, bowling alley and more). In other words, if the shopper wants to beeline to the food court for lunch, she has to first climb upward through each of the mall’s levels.

LuLu’s overall clean and contemporary interior boasts ample natural light from its central atrium, which was covered with toughened laminated glass fixed over a powdercoated steel framework. “Vertical glazing is done on the heat-strengthened laminated glass,” Abdul says, “which brings natural light inside to soften the interior and create a lively ambience.” As for the materials, colors, lighting and signage within specific shops such as LuLu Celebrate (wedding apparel) and the LuLu Fashion Store (men’s, women’s and kids’ clothing departments), the retailer partnered with branding and design firm Grottini Retail Environments (Porto Recanati, Italy).


Inside these spaces, Grottini worked to translate the Indian consumer’s traditional and cultural expectations into a functional shopping environment. Thus, LuLu Fashion offers a rich variation in what the design team calls “the chromatic orchestration and layout of each individual merchandise sector that one would find in street shops in a traditional Indian retail shopping experience; it’s stimulating and somewhat chaotic but still organized and inviting for the shopper.” Similarly, LuLu Celebrate was organized so the apparel offerings spanned from less expensive to super luxe – a feature that exists in traditional Indian wedding apparel stores – with more upscale variances in the fixture design and finishes for each level.

“[LuLu is] positioned as a wholesome family destination center,” Abdul says. “We want customers to experience something they have never seen before.”           

Lauren Mang is a journalist and freelance writer based in Seattle.




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HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

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