Simon Property Group is reportedly preparing to reopen 49 properties in 10 states between May 1 and May 4, according to an internal memo obtained by CNBC. The reopenings would encompass both malls and outlet centers in states that have eased their pandemic-induced restrictions, with the largest clusters of properties located in Texas, Indiana and Georgia.
The malls and outlets would operate under limited business hours of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The schedule would allow for overnight cleaning, in addition to the regular sanitation of high-traffic equipment like food court tables, escalators, doorknobs and electronic directories throughout the day.
Each property will limit traffic to one person per 50 square feet of space with the use of traffic measuring technology, and Simon will offer free CDC-approved masks, hand sanitizing packets and temperature checks upon request. Shoppers also will be encouraged to wear their own face coverings and test their own temperatures before arrival.
Masks and regular handwashing will be made mandatory for Simon employees. The mall operator will also put tape over every other sink and urinal in the restroom, use floor decals to direct traffic flow, limit food court seating and keep play areas and drinking fountains closed. Retailers are being encouraged to take similar safety and sanitation measures and to utilize contactless payment technology wherever possible.
It remains to be seen whether shoppers will flock back to the reopened locations. Slightly more than 45% of consumers plan to avoid shopping centers even after the lockdown ends, and 18.5% of those who are buying less think it will take six months or more before they return to normal spending levels, according to Coresight Research.
Some retailers may still be eager to get their brick-and-mortar businesses up and running. Most companies aren’t designed to go months without physical sales, and rapid reopenings could present a lifeline for retailers like Nordstrom and Gap. However, for many retailers this isn’t just a matter of turning on the lights: they will still need to work through old merchandise, bring in new items and get furloughed workers back into stores before they can return to any semblance of normalcy.
A Simon spokesperson did not immediately respond to Retail TouchPoints’ request for comment.