Mumbai: Vama, South Mumbai’s apparel store for the well-heeled, has landed in bankruptcy court, as Italy’s Gas Jeans tries to recover unpaid dues under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

In the case originally filed in Bombay high court in 2015, Gas Jeans Pvt. Ltd, the Indian unit of the Italian company, has claimed dues of Rs22 lakh. After the enactment of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, the case was transferred to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

The 25,000-sq. ft Vama Departmental Store at Cumbala Hill is located in the same complex as Kanchanjunga—one of the city’s landmarks designed by noted architect Charles Correa—and a bungalow ‘Bella Vista’. All three properties are owned by the family of late businessman Parmanand Patel, and are under ownership dispute for over a decade.

The amount may be small, but the state of Vama also points to declining footfalls and loss of sales at South Mumbai’s retail stores to swanky malls in the city’s redeveloped mill areas and suburbs.

“Vama was directed to produce its ledgers in the tribunal (NCLT) but instead of that, they have just mentioned a few details in a simple statement," Vipul Shukla, counsel for Gas Jeans argued before the tribunal on 8 May. “We have suggested the name for an appointment of interim resolution professional (IRP) as well."

Suvarna Joshi, counsel representing Vama, claimed that Gas Jeans was seeking to recover around Rs22 lakh, but the actual dues were only Rs6 lakh.

If NCLT admits the petition, an IRP will be appointed and the resolution process will begin, with set deadlines for resolution and liquidation. NCLT presiding officer M.K. Shrawat has reserved the matter for an order.

Email queries to Vama as well as Gas Jeans were not answered till press time.

Much before the malls made their mark and foreign brands entered through joint ventures, Vama was selling brands such as Calvin Klein, GAS and Benetton and products from Indian designers such as J.J. Valaya, making it a sought-after destination for wealthy, brand-conscious shoppers.

Devangshu Dutta, founder and chief executive at consultancy firm Third Eyesight said, “Upwardly mobile population has increased many fold in the last 10 to 15 years, and they often choose shopping malls over standalone department stores."

“At one point in time, places like Amarsons or Benzer were the go-to place for major brands and people came from even out of Mumbai to shop there. While they are not such exclusive and strong draws anymore, those stores have also evolved and they know their target customers well; so, they managed to stay relevant with changes in the market," adds Dutta.

In the changing the landscape of the Maximum City, old-world shopping centres are reinventing to stay relevant with new-generation shopping malls and e-commerce sites. One of them is Akbarallys in South Mumbai, which now caters exclusively to men with the launch of ‘Akbarallys Men’. The store, which is around 120-years-old, has gone from being a department store to a multi-brand men’s apparel store in 2015.

“As the city evolved and grew, there was an emergence of multiple micro-cities, each with its own layers of the growth cycle, demographics, and cultural shifts. Plus, infrastructure which includes shopping & retail also has evolved, especially in the newer suburbs that offer better planning, space and convenience that cater well to the evolved buyers & sellers alike," said Tina Jain Mehta, CEO of boutique branding and design firm Pineapple Consulting, “thus reducing the effort of travelling & creating ‘next door’ opportunities which translate into lesser footfalls and reduced sale in South Mumbai."

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