Coronavirus: Calgary shopping malls prepare to reopen in 1st phase of economic relaunch

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Alberta shopping malls prepare to reopen in first phase of economic relaunch
WATCH: With the first phase of Alberta's strategic relaunch set for May 14, shopping malls are drastically changing protocols in order to meet health guidelines. As Blake Lough reports, the changes will make for a much different shopping experience – May 11, 2020

Calgary malls are in the process of making changes within their properties to ensure physical distancing still happens when the doors reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the province released online guides to help businesses plan for Stage 1 of Alberta’s relaunch, which will allow some businesses to resume full operation as early as May 14.

Store owners should limit the number of shoppers and regularly disinfect surfaces and equipment touched by staff and customers, according to the guidelines.

READ MORE: Alberta releases business guides for COVID-19 reopening plan

Darren Milne, CF Market Mall general manager, told Global News that the mall is enhancing cleaning, increasing the security presence and making sure there is plenty of signage to keep people apart.

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“When they arrive, they’re going to see that there [are] doors designated as entrance or exit only. They’re going to see that the hallways have been divided into two-way traffic and arrows on the floor helping direct people where they should go.”

​​He said only about 40 to 45 per cent of businesses are in a position to resume operations, adding that the mall will be limiting common area seating capacity.

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“Our food courts will be serving takeout only, even though there will be some limited seating in there too,” he said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Calgary to allow shops, restaurants to expand patios to allow for social distancing

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Milne reminded shoppers to have a purpose for being at the mall and to use common sense.

“We want to make sure that things are safe, not only for our shoppers who are coming but also for our employees and our tenants,” he said.

“We’re strongly recommending the use of masks when people arrive and we’ve also limited our mall hours.”

‘A cascading effect’

David Finch, a Mount Royal University marketing professor, believes the pandemic will have lasting impacts on the sector and will force businesses to rethink how they operate.

“I think a lot of retailers… will start looking at the math and say, ‘I’m going to have to increase my operating costs because I’m going to need [an] increased proportion from a retail staffing and support perspective to ensure that we are able to clean appropriately [and] ensure that the customers have the support they need, so I’m increasing my operating costs and reducing my revenue,'” he explained.

READ MORE: 2 additional COVID-19 deaths in Alberta, Hinshaw ‘encouraged’ by fewer daily cases

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That move will have “a cascading effect” across the retail landscape, Finch said.

“Hypothetically, if you start looking at some of the figures we’re starting to see in the U.S., or some of the states that opened earlier, only a fraction of their tenants are actually able to make the math work and come back,” he said.

Finch asked: who would be interested in going to a mall that is a ghost town in which only a fraction of a person’s shopping needs will be met?

“As a retailer, the question is, ‘I’ve got to move from a transactional model to something that provides enhanced experiences that cannot be replicated online, so what does that look like?'” he said.

Finch questioned the sustainability of some stores and if they will reopen at all given the tough economic circumstances.

“You need to get it to a minimum threshold of viability and entire categories may have shifted online and may not come back, which again has this cascading impact across the entire retail landscape,” he said.

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