Simon Shutters US Malls Amid Virus Scare

The retail investor-operator is shuttering its 204 properties across the country until March 29.
King of Prussia, a Simon mall in suburban Philadelphia. Image courtesy of Simon Property Group

Simon Property Group, the nation’s largest mall owner, is closing all of its retail properties in the U.S. until March 29 to address the spread of the coronavirus, joining a wave of business closures aimed at stemming the spread of the infection.

The NYSE-listed REIT said that the closures would take effect at 7 p.m. Wednesday, following discussions with federal, state and local officials. The company has an ownership interest in 204 U.S. properties, which together with its 11 international assets totaled more than 191 million square feet as of the fourth quarter of 2019.

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Simon’s portfolio includes King of Prussia, one of the country’s largest malls, located in the suburban Philadelphia community of the same name. The property closed last weekend after Gov. Tom Wolf recommended the closure of all “non-essential” businesses in Montgomery County.

“The health and safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees is of paramount importance and we are taking this step to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Chairman, CEO & President David Simon said in a prepared statement.

The company, which has a total market capitalization of $94 billion, recently boosted its existing $4 billion senior unsecured multi-currency revolving credit facility by 50 percent in dollar value.

Retail sector powers down

David Simon
David Simon, Simon Property Group. Image courtesy of Simon Property Group

Shares in the S&P 100 company fell 22 percent after the announcement, which comes as coronavirus fears and a flurry of restrictions issued by state and local governments bring large swaths of the retail industry to an abrupt halt.

The nation’s largest shopping mall, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., shut its doors on Tuesday evening and is expected to remain offline through at least the end of March, after the state ordered all bars and restaurants to suspend dine-in and drink-in service. The $5 billion American Dream retail and entertainment complex in East Rutherford, N.J., is postponing its grand opening, originally slated for March 19, to a date yet to be determined. The property is closed until March 31. 

National retailers are also taking action. Apple said on Tuesday it would shutter all of its U.S. stories until further notice, after announcing it would close all its retail locations outside of Greater China for two weeks.

On the same day, Nordstrom, which operates 380 department stores in 40 states, announced that it would close up shop for two weeks. Macy’s also decided to close all of its stores nationwide through March 31—a portfolio that, as of last quarter, included 775 locations under its Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury brands.

The mass shutdowns in the retail sector echo convulsions in other parts of the economy, such as gaming and hospitality. Efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 epidemic in the U.S. have suspended business at the casino meccas of Las Vegas, Atlantic City, N.J., and Connecticut.