America’s Biggest Mall Owner Plans to Reopen Half of Its Centers This Week

The largest mall owner in the United States is getting ready to reopen many of its doors this week.

Simon Property Group, which owns roughly 200 shopping and outlet centers across the country, plans to open back up half of its properties within the next week as an increasing number of governors have started to lift their restrictions on nonessential businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

During the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call Monday, CEO David Simon said, “We implemented the temporary closures of our centers to protect our shoppers and the communities in which we serve from the spread of the coronavirus, and we are now leading the effort for these local economies to get back to business while delivering a new, elevated standard of safety for all.”

As of Monday, Simon Property Group has reopened 77 of its locations. (About 12 of the company’s designer and international Simon Premium Outlets stores have also resumed business.) It announced expectations for approximately 50% of its U.S. portfolio to return to operations by next week in accordance with state and local guidelines.

According to Simon, customer response to the reopenings have been “positive,” while its tenants are seeing sales that have proven to be “better than their initial expectations.” The mall owner’s centers, which had been shuttered since March 18, have also started to implement new safety measures, including limited opening hours, reduced shopper capacity, employee health screenings and providing personal protective equipment.

Over the past couple weeks, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Gap — which are among Simon’s anchor tenants — have announced plans to reopen in phases. (Belk and Neiman Marcus have also begun reopening, said Simon.) The company added that it was in the middle of discussions with tenants on rent deferrals, as many businesses struggle to make ends meet amid the health crisis.

“Each situation is analyzed individually based upon our tenant’s market position, their financial status and the history and depth of our relationship,” Simon explained. “Our tenants are eager to reopen their stores, and we are working with them to do so. We are also very focused on helping local entrepreneurs reopen and are also supporting our restaurant operators both nationally and locally.

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