Most Americans Will Be Scared To Return To Malls When Stores Finally Reopen

Over the weekend, we wrote why if one uses Wuhan as a template for what “reopening” could look like, anyone still expecting a V-shaped recovery, or even U-shaped one, could be in for a major shock: the reason – it will take months if not years for consumer fears to subside and for behavior to return to normal.

This could prove catastrophic for America’s already teetering shopping malls and “bricks and mortar” retailers. According to a new study by retail analytics company First Insights conducted on April 20, only one-third of American adults surveyed said that they will feel safe shopping in a mall after stores reopen. More respondents said they’ll feel safe shopping in grocery, drug and big-box stores like Target and Walmart, outlets which mostly remained open during the outbreak to sell essential goods.

In an act of painful irony, before the Coronavirus pandemic hit, malls – which were already suffering from historic traffic losses, went all in in their attempts to lure shoppers people back and added such “social” elements as amusement parks, movie theaters and upgraded food courts – just the types of crowded places that have became off-limits when social distancing began.

As retailers reopen after mandatory stay-at-home periods, Greg Petro, chief executive officer of First Insight, said in a statement that “malls in particular need to be thinking of ways to inspire a sense of safety for consumers, and it will need to go beyond offering gloves and masks at the door.”

And, as Bloomberg notes, China may show the way again:

As the nation reopened businesses following its quarantines, it’s become standard to check the temperatures of patrons entering shopping destinations. Some stores in China are being cleaned multiple times during the day. And fitting rooms and products that have been tried on are being disinfected after each use — no more just picking up a sweater and throwing it back on the rack if it’s not the right fit.

Shopper demographics may also be affected after the reopening, as more men than women said they’ll feel safe in each type of retail outlet after Covid-19, the study found. Petro said that since it’s likely that retailers will see more men in their stores than women, they should consider adjusting inventory accordingly.

And when those shoppers do arrive they’ll most likely be coming with their own equipment. Eighty percent of consumers prefer using their own face masks rather than ones provided in the store, the survey found.

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