Mall Madness

I miss going to the mall.
Jessica Fiur, Managing Editor

I miss going to the mall.

I live in New Jersey, so going to the mall is pretty much ingrained in me (along with getting the perfect grilled cheese from a diner at 2 in the morning and my love for Bon Jovi). With COVID-19 and shelter in place, I, and pretty much everyone else, haven’t been able to go shopping in what seems like forever. Sure, we can buy things online, but it’s not the same as going to the mall, walking around, people watching and “impulse buying” a giant buttery pretzel, which was actually the real reason you went there in the first place.

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Brick-and-mortar retail is of course struggling during this pandemic, and restaurants in particular are quickly looking to adapt. For those that remain open, it’s an all-hands-on-deck situation, which is ironic, considering that now retailers are looking for customers to be as hands off as possible. In Barbra Murray’s retail sector report, Anjee Solanki of Colliers International says that businesses are “evaluating costs associated with creating a hands-free environment as a result of COVID-19, knowing their customers will want to know what safety measures are in place.”

According to Murray’s research, retailers are beginning to shop around for automation tools. Self-service kiosks and automated lockers are currently in high demand. Will their popularity continue once things are back to business as usual? It’s hard to say, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

And how are other types of retailers preparing for a return to shopping?

Data and metrics, as described in this month’s feature story by IvyLee Rosario, could be the keys to get back in business once companies are permitted to operate as normal. According to Vincent-Charles Hodder of Local Logic, owners should look to using “alternative datasets” such as social media and mobility data. And real-time data will become crucial to analyzing performance. Technology can be used to get a picture of how long customers stay in a store, demographics and totally number of shoppers within a specific timeframe. All of this can be used to get the big picture, which savvy owners can use to adjust their businesses accordingly.

Will retail be the same after all of this? Probably not. But, for an industry that experts have said is “dying” for years, retail has shown that, above all, it is adaptable. So, there’s hope. And for this Jersey girl, that’s all that we could ask for right now.

I would love to hear what you think about the state of retail and what will happen after COVID-19. Feel free to reach out with any thoughts. And, as always, stay safe.