Many malls remain open, despite brand closures
While brands including Nike, Apple and Lululemon are temporarily closing U.S. shops to avoid further spread of COVID-19, many mall operators that house those brands remain open. Property owners including Simon, Brookfield, Taubman and Westfield all appear to have U.S. locations in operation and open to the public, even in areas where the coronavirus has been prevalent.
Simon’s The Westchester, a high-end mall located in White Plains, was open for business on Monday with regular hours, though a customer service representative noted that many stores within the mall have shortened hours. Cases of COVID-19 in Westchester county, which is currently under a state of emergency, number well over 100. A notice on The Westchester’s website says the mall has increased cleaning of areas including children’s play areas and dining areas.
A spokeswoman from Simon did not return a request for comment. On Simon’s homepage, an ad promotes yogawear brand Lululemon as “Brands we love.” Over the weekend, Lululemon announced it is closing all stores in North America and Europe from March 16 through March 27. Like Lululemon, the other stores that have suspended brick-and-mortar shops, such as Apple, Nike and Disney, are anchor tenants as shopper destinations for malls—which have seen shopper traffic decline over the last two decades.
Taubman Centers, which recently announced a deal to be acquired by Simon Property Group, noted that centers remaining open are complying with several mandates for bars and restaurants in certain areas to close or offer only takeout, a spokeswoman says. She notes that food court seating has been removed and that events through March have been canceled. Center hours remain the same.
Neither Westfield nor Brookfield immediately returned inquiries about coronavirus-related closures.
Many, including mall employees, have complained on social media about the continued operation of malls, particularly under the Simon group.
In contrast, American Dream, a mall in East Rutherford, N.J., said it is closed from March 16 through the end of the month. The megamall has taken more than a decade to be built and open, and suffered years of delays—it opened partially at the end of last year. An opening of a water park on site had been planned for March and is now postponed.
“While there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at American Dream, after carefully reviewing the guidelines of public health agencies and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we have made the difficult, but responsible, decision to close American Dream, beginning Monday, March 16, 2020 to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” reads a post on American Dream’s website.
A late February report from retail research firm Coresight Research found that 27.5 percent of shoppers said even then that they were avoiding public areas such as shopping centers; 58 percent said at the time that they would avoid malls if the virus were to worsen. “A worsening of the outbreak would hit malls disproportionately,” the Feb. 28 report noted.