Spectacular fireworks, massive discounts and pop-up markets - the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) might be scheduled to be held after Christmas, but its buzz is certainly already palpable. There are only a couple of days to go until the 25th edition of the massive shopping spree begins, and with extended dates this year, it’s expected to be bigger than ever before! Even from an economic perspective, the Dubai Shopping Festival is a time when people visit the Emirate and boost its tourism industry. Obviously, while this is a time for great economic benefit for the country, it is the operations and cleaning teams of companies maintaining malls that face the maximum challenges.
Mohamed Adil, Head of Operations, MBM - a facilities management company that maintains almost 16 shopping malls in the U.A.E (including popular ones like Mirdiff City Centre, Oasis Mall, etc in Dubai) talks about how the company is already prepped and ready to meet the onslaught of visitors to ensure that they have a clean, seamless shopping experience this festival.
"We have had our share of challenges when it comes to maintaining shopping malls in the region especially during the 3-day flash sales that crop up every other month or so. The Dubai Shopping Festival is relatively an easier time since it is spread over more than a month. People do not throng the malls all at once. This, coupled with years of experience and a well trained team, helps us to handle the large crowd, especially during the weekends and evening times, when the footfall is rather high. This year, even the winter breaks coincide with DSF, and people are more likely to stay within the country due to good weather. That definitely translates to some good crowd.
The challenge arises in high footfall areas of the mall such as toilets, food courts, elevators, escalators and around the cinemas. We overcome this by mapping our team to these locations.
For any shopping mall, we carry out two types of cleaning - regular and deep. The former is ongoing. It is done at regular intervals of time. The latter cannot be done while there are people still moving around the mall. Hence, deep cleaning is done only during the nonoperational times of the mall. While the mall is still operational, we set a particular frequency after which regular cleaning is done. The need for regular cleaning arises because of people being on the move - it could be because of spillages or garbage being thrown on the floor. For this, there is a team that is always on standby and equipped with necessary chemicals and equipment required to control the levels of contamination or dirtying, which could be spread in a shopping mall. How regular cleaning is to be done also depends upon the area of the mall we are dealing with.
Our cleaning staff checks and cleans certain areas of the mall (like the entrances) after every 15 minutes, but there are also certain parts (like the washroom) where we have to place a dedicated cleaner throughout the working hours. For food courts, we have a KPI that involved tables being cleaned within 60 seconds of a patron leaving it. We also dry mop the floor as part of our routine cleaning in order to avoid slips and falls. However, when things like ice cream or soft drinks are spilled on the floor, we use wet techniques to clean that area. Then comes the deep cleaning - where everything - floor, walls, etc are properly scrubbed, cleaned and sanitized.
Preparing for DSF
All the planning and preparation begins a week prior to DSF. Based on our past experience, we know the timings and days of high footfalls. We have a team of people equipped with what is to be done. In addition, additional resources are mobilized. We prepare them not just for the shopping spree, but also for the additional events that happen during this period. A part of our routine is also to have daily meetings, but in the case of DSF or any other event, also provide our staff with a separate briefing. We instruct them on how to be groomed, how to speak to customers, how to maintain every aspect of the mall - including the car parks, entrances, facades, etc.
DSF also coincides with Christmas, New Year and even the pay days of most people. So, we are expecting an increase of almost 25% in the footfall of malls. In fact, since it will be winter holidays, too, the food courts are expected to be more crowded than the rest of the mall. We need to be all the more prepared. Apart from the food courts, the cinemas are also crowded.
The cleaning process also differs from mall to mall depending on their SLAs and footfalls. For instance, we use microfiber towels to clean the food courts in Oasis Malls but the same can’t be used in Majid Al-Futtaim malls. I would say Mirdiff City Center is one of the most challenging malls we have managed - the footfall of elite customers is quite high, so the expectations from a cleaning service provider are naturally high.
Keeping the human resources motivated
In a nutshell, I would say that it’s all about managing your resources - mobilising your people to support the busy areas. We try to keep our people motivated by giving them breaks just before the rush hours begin. We give them compensatory holidays during the weekdays since they work during weekends. Even the malls provide them with refreshments and conduct monthly events where they are recognised for their efforts. We believe that everyone deserves a tap on the back, even the cleaning staff. At MBM, we don’t always wait for big events to give them their due share of recognition. Sometimes, when they least expect it, we surprise them with a gift voucher which keeps them motivated.
Overall through a concentrated team effort - between both the mall management and ourselves, we conduct the best possible maintenance for the malls during the Dubai Shopping Festival!"
About the author: Mohamed Adil is the Head of Operations at the MBM LLC (part of Al Ghurair group of companies). He has been successfully overseeing the operations of the company, which provides cleaning services to almost 16 shopping malls across the U.A.E for 3 years. He has over 12 years of experience in operations and soft FM.