Malls and retail stores are opening up in SoCal, albeit slowly. Still, it was good to see a bit of life on the bricks-and-mortar scene on my first trip to a mall since stay-at-home orders were issued in mid-March.
At the Shops at Mission Viejo this week, department-store anchors Macy’s and Nordstrom remained dark. Other stores that are not yet open looked as though they were being held in a state of suspended animation. Signs promoting spring merchandise still hung in windows. I felt especially sad standing in front of J. Crew’s spring-themed window. Easter displays in up-front positions looked perfectly merchandised at Godiva, ready for a morning opening that never happened so many weeks ago.
Within a few open doors, big sales indicated that merchandise clear-out strategies have begun in earnest. Old Navy’s 50%-off sale applied to everything in the store. At Glitz & Glam it was 65% off. Ouch. (Not surprisingly, the culling of inventory is widespread. Colleague Tom Mirabile of Springboard Futures sent his Paris team to look at retail this week on behalf of The Trend Curve. They reported that even upper-end stores were focused on promotions and moving what’s on the floor.)
In other windows and stores, employees had already reworked merchandise to present fresh visuals to the few customers in the mall. Athleta’s window said, “We’re Back — We Missed You!” Pottery Barn put “Welcome Back! We Missed You” on a sign at the door. These sentiments are undoubtedly shared by many consumers.
One store had someone stationed at the entrance, but even those that did not still had a worker near the front to say hello and encourage a visit inside. Their tone was welcoming and warm, even heart-felt and certainly personal. I like to think that when we are finally living in a post-pandemic world, interactions like these will continue as the norm.
Have you visited reopened malls and stores yet? If not, are you planning to go? If you have already ventured out, feel free to post a comment with what you’ve seen and how it felt. Add if you are reading this post on my LinkedIn page, add pictures to your comment, if you have them.