Shopping centers are currently finalizing preparations for reopening, starting on June 15, to ensure compliance with the safety and social distancing measures that are still needed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In total, investments in all equipment, supplies and staff needed to implement these measures exceed half a million euros for large shopping centers, according to Colliers International consultants. Shoppers will gradually resume their pre-pandemic habits, and traffic in the malls could return to normal during the Christmas season.
Non-food retailers were among those most affected by measures taken during the state of emergency to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The closure of shopping centers has determined retail tenants to revise their revenue expectations for this year, with 45% expecting a drop of more than 30% and 39% expecting a drop of up to 30%, as showed in a study conducted in March by the retail division of Colliers International among 84 tenants and 21 owners in the retail sector in Romania. However, the tenants rely on the summer months to start recovering losses accumulated during the period when the stores were closed, even in the context of an estimated number of visitors at half the level from usual periods. Traffic is expected to increase in the next period and could return to normal in December.
Mobility statistics published by Google, based on data collected from users’ smartphones, suggest a gradual, but consistent recovery of the traffic in commercial and leisure areas. In Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Timis, pedestrian traffic in these areas was 30-40% below a regular average at the beginning of June, compared to 80% below normal levels a few months back. In countries where restrictions were lifted earlier, figures look somewhat better and offer hope that the gradual improvement will continue in the next period.
“The reopening of shopping centers starting 15 June is welcomed by shopping center owners and tenants, which are expecting to begin recovering from the period of inactivity, even if at a not very fast pace, given that visitors will gradually resume their pre-pandemic habits. For the safety of shoppers, malls and shopping centers have taken all necessary safety measures during this period and have established clear procedures for disinfecting common areas and ensuring social distancing, and many retailers will also come with additional measures in their own spaces”, says Simina Niculiță, Partner & Head of Retail Agency at Colliers International.
Thus, among measures taken by large shopping centers are gates or special rooms through which the body temperature of visitors can be measured or systems for monitoring the total number of visitors at any time within the center, so as to limit access to others visitors when the maximum limit set according to the authorities is reached. At the same time, shopping centers are ready to constantly disinfect common areas and escalators with specialized substances or UV lamps and will provide visitors dispensers with disinfectants, and as an additional measure will opt for the introduction of fresh air from outside instead of previous procedures for recirculating air inside the center.
“Shopping centers have made and continue to make substantial investments in order to provide a safe experience for buyers, respecting all measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The transition from the period of inactivity to the new retail rules can be made easier, as visitors’ confidence increases, and the activity has all the prerequisites to return as soon as possible. Almost 70% of retail space owners and about half of tenants expect to return to a satisfactory level of business, compared to the levels before the Covid-19 epidemic, during the next year”, says Simina Niculiță, Partner & Head of Retail Agency at Colliers International.