Woodgrove Centre in Nanaimo is installing safety measures to limit transmission of the coronavirus among shoppers and staff as the mall readies for retail to come back to life in its corridors after the May long weekend.
Mark Fenwick, Woodgrove Centre general manager, said health and safety is the mall’s priority and shoppers can expect to see some changes to mall services and access.
“We’re supporting our retailers in many ways and look forward to a number of them re-opening next week, which will be in line with guidance from our B.C. government,” Fenwick said. “The environment inside the mall will be a little bit different. We’ll have doors specified to go in and out to help promote physical distancing.”
Woodgrove is also finding ways to limit what people can touch. The mall’s food court will be take-out only with no seating and there will be no loan-out baby strollers. Customers will encounter more cleaning staff and mall staff, security included, will wear personal protective equipment. Signs will will help guide customers through COVID-19 precautions.
“There will be [decals] to help people line up where needed outside of stores,” Fenwick said. “There are going to be traffic directions, all sorts of things like that to promote the important health considerations.”
Stores will follow safety and protection guidelines laid out by the province, but various stores will implement those protections differently according to their specific needs, products offered and retail floor layouts. Plexiglass barriers at cash registers will be common to most stores.
Personal service providers, such as hair salons, will likely require both stylists and clients to wear masks and gloves because of their close proximity, Fenwick said.
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Most of Woodgrove’s smaller stores closed once COVID-19 control measures came down. Fenwick said Woodgrove property owner Ivanhoé Cambridge offered rent deferrals to some retailers through April and May. Woodgrove had about 140 retail and service outlets at the start of spring; how many have survived the economics of the pandemic to this point and are able to re-open is as yet unknown.
“We won’t quite know, I think, until we see all the re-openings of our retailers,” Fenwick said. “The COVID period’s been a real pause, so there’s been reduced communication in some cases, so I really can’t answer that question, but what I will say is we anticipate it will take some time to get everyone re-opened.”
All stores won’t be opening on the same day. Retailers have different plans, timelines and resources that dictate when they will open. During a visit to the mall Thursday, staff and shop owners of some stores could be seen prepping for opening.
Lisa Hayward, who owns clothing store Culture Craze, said she plans to open Tuesday, May 19, if plexiglass barriers and other protective measures can be put in place by then.
“We plan to open that day with some luck,” Hayward said. “It will be different and it will take time to get our staff used to the new way of doing things.”
Sport Chek was set to open by the long weekend, Fenwick said.
“They will be offering both a curbside pickup opportunity and then I believe customers will be able to go in the store, so that’s their plan, and then there are a handful of other stores too that are offering that curbside delivery option. That includes Toys ‘R Us, and Walmart will be implementing it shortly, if it isn’t already…” he said. “We’re putting in some special signs for some of those curbside delivery situations. At each of the major mall entrances there are going to be a couple of stalls where people can just pull in.”
Mall opening hours have also been revised to 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays.