Typically the domain of retail chains and department stores, Chandler Fashion Center recently welcomed Malani World Mercato, an Indian bazaar-style store that offers shoppers a unique global experience.
Nestled between Sephora and Free People, the store is a far cry from the chains that surround it in the mall. Rather than focus on one specific niche like women’s clothing or furniture, it sells a diverse array of products, including clothing, jewelry and British and Indian foods as well as furniture, décor and wines from all over the world.
Owner Pradip Malani has his own jewelry designers, and all of the clothing and jewelry sold in the store is made in India.
The Chandler store is Malani’s second location. He opened the first Malani World Mercato at Paradise Valley Mall in Phoenix over six years ago. Establishing the first store was an uphill battle but the process has been much easier in Chandler the second time around.
“It’s been an evolution,” Malani said. “People have been getting more and more into the Bollywood style and now you see it everywhere. We are the only game in town really.”
For Malani, it is all about introducing the brand to the community. Once shoppers happen upon his store, their reactions are almost always positive, he said.
While his concept may seem out of place in a suburban mall, Chandler, in particular, is actually a prime location for Malani’s bazaar.
“Chandler has a lot of diverse communities, which helps a lot,” Malani said.
Prior to opening his Arizona stores, the Ahwatukee resident worked in the jewelry industry for 39 years and operated an Indian clothing and jewelry brand in Los Angeles called Sona Chaandi.
The store really began to take off as the Bollywood style caught on with celebrities and Malani noticed an uptick in interest “once celebrities like Madonna and Gwen Stefani started walking into our store and buying our stuff,” he said.
Malani’s Los Angeles store even provided the wardrobe for Johnny Depp in the fourth installment of Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, he said. The project was a career highlight for the Mumbai-born Malani, who first visited the U.S. as a child when his father took him to Disneyland.
He grew up in Kolkata and attended high school there before moving to Los Angeles in 1979 to start his own business. He was attracted to Los Angeles by that initial trip to Disneyland with his father.
Malani decided to retire to Arizona seven years ago, and his son now runs Sona Chaandi in Los Angeles. That retirement did not last long, though, and Malani decided to replicate his Los Angeles store in the Valley in what he referred to as his “retirement project.”
“It’s better than getting bored at home,” Malani said.
Despite its unique concept, Malani World Mercato exemplifies a growing trend in retail that has seen stores focus on providing unique experiences for prospective buyers. As stores struggle to compete with online shopping, this tactic allows them to offer something to consumers that Internet marketplaces like Amazon like cannot.
“I think it is a perfect example of retailers being creative,” CBRE Retail Services First Vice President Todd Folger said. “It’s not that there’s anything wrong with a traditional retail store, but the more you can make an experience for the consumer, the better the chance is they are going to spend more time in that store.”
In that vein, Malani World Mercato offers eyebrow threading and henna body art from professional artists. Its eclectic mixture of clothing, food and décor offerings also set it apart from the more sterile online shopping experience.
“(That experience) provides consumers with more reasons to come back and spend more time in store, (and it is) definitely a trend we will see continuing in the future,” Folger said.
– Reach Wayne Schutsky at 480-898-6533 or firstname.lastname@example.org.