Simon Property Group, the nation’s largest mall operator, reopened several dozen shopping centers across Texas, Georgia and roughly ten other states between Friday and Monday.
There, a new reality is on display: Play areas and water fountains are off-limits. Employees wear masks and shopping in groups is banned. Shoppers can also get their temperature checked for free on the premises.
Among other changes: Every other urinal and sink is taped off, and there’s ample space between seating in the food court. Simon also has technologies that will make sure occupancy will not exceed one person for every 50 feet (15 meters).
But despite all the safety measures, the question remains: Will anyone come?
“There are still a lot of people who are scared,” said Jon Reily, global head of commerce strategy at Isobar Global, a global digital agency. “The tricky part for malls is finding that sweet spot. Yes, you can come here and yes, you can be safe.”
So far, the early signs haven’t been encouraging.
At Simon’s Town Center at Cobb, which reopened Monday in Kennesaw, a suburb of Atlanta, many of the stores remained closed. Those still dark and locked by gates included Starbucks, Victoria Secret, Helzberg Diamonds and the Build-A-Bear Workshop. Some of the kiosks selling jewelry, cell phones and T-shirts were open, though others were closed.
For sale at one of the kiosks: A black-and-white T-shirt emblazoned with a gas mask and the words “I Survived Coronavirus 2020.”
Douglas Butler, 28, arrived at Simon’s Lenox Square mall in Atlanta around 11 a.m. on Monday. It was much less crowded than normal, and he easily found a parking spot in the normally packed lot.
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May 08, 2020