Going to the mall has never really been about checking items out of your shopping list. It was a place to socialize with friends, to try cosmetics and clothes for inspiration, to interact with people over a snack, and often even window shopping to waste time. But, like almost any location where people meet, the malls may never be the same after the COVID-19 outbreak.
We spoke to retail experts about how the malls will change in the age of coronavirus. Get ready to say goodbye to many of your favorite features! The busy food courts, make-up samples, and window shopping could vanish in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
1. No more cash transactions
Yes, cash was once King, but these days, many people see it as a glowing green coronavirus danger. So look for retailers and mall amenities to shift more and more away from cash.
“Expect mall retailers to strongly encourage cashless transactions, through their own apps or payment platforms like Apple Pay, to further minimize risk of transmissions,” says Toopan Bagchi, senior advisor at the retail consulting firm The Navio Group. “These changes will likely remain for a year or more until a vaccine is available, though many consumers are expected to increase their use of curbside pickup and contactless payment permanently.”
2. No more loose dressing room policies
In order to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission, mall stores should change their policies on the use of dressing rooms and safeguard items brought in for try-on. “Some stores, such as Macy’s and Nordstrom, will reopen dressing rooms, but they will keep some closed to help with distancing, clean them after each use, and wait before restocking products,” Bagchi notes. “Others will follow their lead.”
According to fashion brand consultant Tamiko White, “stores that make it a policy to remove merchandise from the floor for 24 to 72 hours once it’s been tried on will be mindful of their revolving merchandise assortment and emphasize to sales associates the importance of closing sales.”
In other words, you may want to decide how serious you are about a specific item before you agree to buy it— or the salesperson may be trying to pressure you to buy it.
3. No more makeup samples
Beauty counters in mall-anchoring department stores and other beauty retailers such as Sephora have long sold both scheduled and walkup makeup applications and other testing opportunities for years. But those practices will have to change.
“For sanitary reasons and to help customers feel more secure, stores will be using paper sketches to demonstrate makeup for customers,” says White. “Expect to be serviced by masked and gloved attendants instead of self-service; sampling products and handling boxes increases the risk of cross-contamination.”
4. No more perfume sprayers
Like cosmetics samples, fragrance sampling is unlikely to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. But that’s not all bad news: “The in-your-face perfume sprayers will be a thing of the past,” White says.
5. No more mask-free entry
When the malls re-open, you’ll see signs of the pandemic, the second you’ll enter those automatic doors. “For starters, mall staff should be distributing and encouraging the use of face masks and hand sanitizer,” Bagchi says.
6. No more walking anywhere you please
You’ll also see a number of steps put in place to ensure social distancing through the guided crowd flow. Bagchi expects staff will be “deploying crowd-control measures to ensure physical distancing,” which includes “designating doors as enter- or exit-only, signage to encourage traffic flow in certain directions, and barriers with appropriately spaced markers to create lines where crowding may occur.”
7. No more afternoons at the food court
Sorry, teens hoping for an afternoon out of the house sampling Auntie Anne’s and Panda Express. Crowd control is likely to impact the food court as well. “Squatting at the food court won’t lend to social distancing or consistent disinfecting,” White says. “Seating may be limited to 30 minutes so staff can disinfect tables or [they’ll] be removed altogether.”
8. No more Black Friday throngs
A tightly packed line that snakes around and around has historically been a hallmark of the Black Friday dealer ‘s success— but don’t expect to see those notorious scenes coming forward.
“Black Friday is going to look very different this year,” notes Trae Bodge, a smart shopping expert at True Trae. “With social distancing in effect, stores are going to have to figure out ways to limit the number of consumers allowed in store at any given time.”
Bodge suspects Black Friday might develop using some of the social-distance strategies we’ve already seen in the early stages of re-opening. “My guess is that we will see some combination of what stores have been dabbling in recently, including a greatly reduced maximum capacity, waiting lines outside the stores, and reservations,” she says.
9. No more kids’ activities
Malls have worked steadily to attract in-person shoppers otherwise lost to online shopping, and in the midst of these efforts, a variety of diversions for children have gradually been introduced. But the pandemic might be the end of those, or at least a substantial scaling back as malls work to mitigate risk.
“In recent years, we’ve seen an influx of elaborate kids’ activities in malls, like climbing walls, ball pits, and ropes courses,” Bodge says. “As long as the pandemic is around, I don’t expect that we’ll see these in operation. Because these activities involve so many common surfaces, it will be very difficult to ensure the safety of each child.”
10. No more browsing for browsing’s sake
A lot of shoppers have enjoyed going to the mall for their own sake— to explore, window shop, spend time, get fashion inspiration, and try outfits with best friends. But anticipate the pastime to fade in the wake of the coronavirus.
“Due to the pandemic, my guess is that shoppers will be more likely to go to the mall with a plan, by conducting research ahead of time and creating a shopping list at home,” Bodge says. “I would suggest that if you have specific items in mind, set deal alerts on a site like Slickdeals.net. By doing this, you can be alerted to when items you need go on sale, and determine when it makes sense to venture out to purchase those items.”