Spreading COVID-19 could deal significant blow to US shopping malls

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By: Columbian.com

With the virus spreading in the U.S., it could deal a major blow to the country’s more than 1,000 malls at time when many are already struggling with a slew of retail bankruptcies. New diagnoses of the disease in several U.S. states have raised the tally of cases to more than 100.

Big malls like American Dream and Mall of America and mall owner Taubman Centers Inc. say they’re adding hand sanitizer stations, and they’ve also stepped up disinfecting high-touch areas such as doors and handrails. The International Council of Shopping Centers said its members are following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Target, Walmart and other discounters and pharmacy chains have reported big crowds of customers stocking up on basics such as hand sanitizers and canned goods. But shoppers could yet get scared and stay home. A new survey by Coresight Research, a global research firm, hints at troubles ahead for shopping malls as the virus spreads.

Almost 28% of nearly 2,000 U.S. internet users aged 18 and older surveyed in late February by Coresight Research said they were cutting back on visits to malls, workplaces and entertainment venues or changing their travel arrangements. Nearly 60% said they’re likely to take similar actions if the virus outbreak worsens.

A worsening of the outbreak would hit malls disproportionately, the research suggests. Among those likely to change habits if the outbreak worsens, around three quarters expect to avoid shopping complexes, making this the most-avoided type of location.


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