“I think this is the most important thing that is impacting the retail landscape in a very, very long time. I don’t think there’s a quick fix out there and there will be casualties along the way, no doubt. ”
As some Calgary malls prepare to open this week, retail leaders are planning and working to determine the best way to do so while keeping customers, staff and tenants safe.
Stage 1 of the provincial government’s stimulus strategy, which begins Thursday, will allow some retail businesses – such as clothing, furniture and bookstores – to reopen with restrictions.
In addition to increasing the cleaning protocol, implementing social distancing measures and hiring more staff and security to ensure customers follow the rules, Calgary’s largest retail destinations must accept the new standard for in-person shopping.
In closed regional shopping malls – including the CF Chinook Center, CF Market Mall, CrossIron Mills, Sunridge Mall and Southcentre Mall – property management company JLL Canada reported that only 20-25% of tenants were able to pay their rent in April. So far for May, the numbers are around 15-20%, said JLL executive vice president Tim Sanderson.
“I think this is the most important thing that is impacting the retail landscape in a very, very long time,” said Sanderson. “I don’t think there is a quick fix for it and there are going to be victims along the way, no doubt. “
Sanderson said that outlets now need to determine the best route to take, which could include customers and staff wearing masks, alternating between opening certain sections or floors in a mall and how to manage them. Waiting lines.
Apart from the large multinational companies that have experienced difficulties in recent weeks, small private stores have their own challenges.
“Mom-and-pop retailers, small-scale operators, they are concerned about cash and cash, and they don’t have the deep pockets of a company like Gap,” said Sanderson. “I look at what I have to spend and rent is often a very large component of operating costs. . . who am I going to pay when I look at all these bills and have no money? It’s a terrible situation. ”
To ease the economic burden of the COVID-19 effect, Ivanhoé Cambridge, who operates CrossIron Mills, allowed some tenants to defer rent for April and May.
“We took the decision very seriously. . . We believe it is important to support our tenants and help with liquidity issues and support the economy of Canada, so we understand that it is difficult for them and we know that we must support them and the communities in which we operate, “Katherine Roux Groleau with Ivanhoé Cambridge said.
CrossIron Mills is preparing to reopen but will not say exactly when this will happen. In the meantime, Ivanhoé Cambridge provides advice on cleaning and security protocols, and messages throughout the installation.
Cadillac Fairview, which owns and operates CF Chinook Center and CF Market Mall, said the plan was to open on May 14 with increased cleaning and hygiene protocols and physical distancing measures in place, and is reviewing protocols for equipment such as food courts.
Sanderson said many shoppers have moved online out of necessity, and he expects this trend to continue even when more malls reopen to the public.
“A lot of people are getting a lot more used to ordering things online,” he said. “I think the cocooning effect is what people do when they are unsure and don’t know what’s coming. So instead of spending money on a great family vacation, maybe it’s a barbecue for the garden this summer, or maybe a home theater for the basement instead of going out to the theater. “
Despite the uncertainty, Sanderson said he was reassured by the creativity of store owners to reinvent their business in difficult times.
“There are a lot of really smart and creative people involved in the retail industry, and they’re not shy or afraid to try things and think outside the box. . . Unfortunately, there will be victims, but there will also be bright stories. “