Post-COVID19: How Our Malls and Shopping Centres Will Change

As we begin to enter a post-COVID19 world, it’s clear that not everything will be as it once was. Various enterprises are learning the best ways to adapt. What’s the new normal going to be at your local shopping centre or mall?

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It’s possible that we’re beginning to enter a post-COVID19 world. We just don’t really know when, or how long it might last. Governments all around the world are beginning to lift lockdown restrictions, allowing us to visit with friends and family more, and potentially dine and shop out.

It’s like there’s a bandaid covering all of us up and we need to slowly peel it off so there’s no risk of upsetting the wound again. Inevitably, there will be a scar left behind. The skin will never be the same again. The world will need to adjust, as it has already been doing these past few months, and be consistent about it.

Most shopping centres and malls haven’t completely closed their doors during this time. Many remain open and follow the guidelines of the most recent restrictions: takeaway food only, essential shopping. Though, many retailers have been allowed to remain open, so long as they keep their in-shop buyers to a minimum and give them plenty of space and a means to clean their hands pre- and post-shop.

Many retailers have been able to stay afloat with the quick shift to a digital market, and online shopping becoming a more popular world than ever right now.

“In 11 of the 12 markets surveyed, consumers said they were more frequently purchasing products online that they would normally buy in-store” – says Rob Clapp from WARC

Though, I don’t think we can assume that things will shift back to normal once this all “blows over”. Most markets are going to have to change the way they operate or risk going under. Shopping malls, being a huge umbrella for a range of different retailers, might not be what they once were. The question is: how will they be different?

I think, for one, we can imagine that a decent amount of the retailers in your local mall might be closing their doors. Either the company might have gone under, or that local outlet just can’t hack it. We began seeing this sort of thing happening very early in the Coronavirus world.

Kikki.K, a Melbourne-based stationery store, with 65 locations across Australia, New Zealand, London, Singapore and Hong Kong, announced its collapse in early March. Sales had been down mostly due to a slow summer with the bushfire devastation across Australia.

Photo Credit: Westfield

Though with the virus becoming more and more prevalent, just as the fires were washed away, there hasn’t been much room for a recovery. Other major retailers like Harris Scarfe, Bardot, and EB Games have been forced to go under and close their doors since the start of 2020.

These kinds of retailers and brands are what we’re so used to seeing at our local shopping centre. The vibe will inevitably be different without their presence.

Other than that, I don’t think any prediction we can make will be straight-forward and clear-cut. There are things we hope will change. Perhaps people will stop lingering. No more teens loitering at the shops for late-night on a Thursday. Wouldn’t they rather be in the open air anyhow? Most of us will, after this, and I think the youth will be among us in that movement.

Perhaps the slow-walkers will begin to pick up their pace. Even as these restrictions begin to lift, people will begin to (we hope) think twice about their outings. They’ll keep their errands to a minimum and make them nice and swift—meaning they might walk a bit faster at the mall and you won’t have to awkwardly shuffle your feet behind them.

Maybe more and more brands and shopfronts will make a switch to more sustainable and eco-friendly options. Re-usable bags, more digital receipts, sustainable clothing, recyclable packaging. We’ve seen how the world responds when we slow down for a little while—global warming seems to move a bit slower, proving evermore that we need to take action in order to see results.

Live shows and children activities held at your local mall might be on hold for a while longer past it’s “re-opening”. Most vicinities will take whatever measures necessary to ensure that group gatherings are kept to a minimum. That might mean no more events running at the mall.

The food court, for one, will be the biggest noticeable change. I can imagine seating will need to be more spread out, and if the space isn’t a large one, tables will be taken away limiting a dine-in option for consumers. We might be taking our shopping-lunch-breaks in the car park from now on.

As it seems, retailers will continue to operate, however cautiously. The malls might continue to be less crowded—a blessing in disguise—as people continue to shop online, the new normal. Consumers might continue to think more carefully about their outings and asking themselves whether their mindless shopping is necessary or “essential”. I think the days of endless browsing might not be as popular a past-time, but I can’t imagine they’ll never return.

The malls will be a different place for a while, the ghost-town essence still lingering as we slowly bring ourselves out into this new post-COVID19 world. One day, in the future, things might resemble what they once were, but I don’t think they’ll ever truly be the same again, for better or for worse.

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