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Canadian Mall Landlords Innovate Amid Second Wave Lockdowns

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The current lockdown in the Toronto region has forced shopping centres to adapt and find new ways to accommodate customers’ holiday shopping needs by offering e-commerce or phone order fulfillment while in-store retail shopping is restricted.

For example, Oxford Properties’ Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Square One, and Scarborough Town Centre malls in the GTA, received a surge of customer inquiries just before the new COVID-19 containment measures came into effect as everyone tries to figure out the most effective ways to continue operating during these challenging times.

William Correia, Director at and Scarborough, said during the first lockdown earlier this year curbside pick-up was available and the option for the shopper.

Screenshot of Square One's Instagram
Screenshot of Square One’s Instagram

“At this point in time, the difference in the mandate or legislation that’s come out is the ability for folks to buy online or over the phone and then pick up at the store fronts,” he said.

“So our retailers at all three shopping centres have the ability to have deliveries or pick-ups done at their store fronts as well as curbside. And our essential retailers remain open to the public at a limited capacity.”

Oxford said retailers have been working intensely to accommodate consumer demand. Some stores have online ordering where store pickup can be selected. Many other retailers do not yet offer this e-commerce option which means that customers need to call the store, place the order and confirm the pickup time. Orders can only be placed online or by phone and may not be made in person at the stores or storefront or curbside pickup areas.

Yorkdale, Square One, and Scarborough Town Centre are supporting retailers by creating designated curbside and store front pickup locations for stores adapting quickly during this retail period by offering e-commerce or phone order fulfillment. Customers can visit the Yorkdale, Square One and Scarborough Town Centre websites to see what stores are offering curbside and storefront pickup. Lists of participating retailers should be consulted before planning purchases as the information is being updated in real time, said the company.

Correia said with curbside pickup there was a concern about lineups in the shopping centre but Oxford has a safe approach that will allow it to utilize a waiting system for all of the retailers.

“The customer will come and scan their bar code, the retailer will then text them when the order is ready to pick up. We have this line management system now that we never had before and that’s going to help to keep the shopping centre safe,” he said.

“It will help with distancing, crowding. That’s one feature that we have that we didn’t before. As well, we now have e-gift cards. So Oxford gift cards for any of our shopping centres can be purchased online and sent online to different recipients as well. They can even put a photo or video message but the recipient of the gift card will get it electronically and then can go to any shopping centre to have it redeemed or used at any of the retailers. So that’s something that’s new for us in addition to what we had back earlier in the year.”

Correia said each individual website will also let each shopper know who is doing curbside, who is doing store front pickup and which retailers are essential retailers. There’s also a gift finder option. That will help people find their unique gifts and then looking at the options they have with each of the retailers.

The e-gift card initiative is nationwide.

While traffic at the malls is down from a year ago, Correia said he expects it to pick up in the next few weeks as more retailers prepare themselves for store front pickup and for curbside and the more retailers participate in those programs.

In a statement, Cadillac Fairview said:

“As per the guidance of the Ontario Provincial Government, effective Monday, November 23, 2020, Toronto is moving into lockdown. In shopping malls this means that only government-defined retailers are permitted to open with limited occupancy, as well as retailers offering curbside pickup in shopping malls.

Exterior of CF Sherway Gardens. Photo: CF Sherway Gardens
Exterior of CF Sherway Gardens. Photo: CF Sherway Gardens

“Impacted Cadillac Fairview properties include: CF Toronto Eaton Centre, CF Fairview Mall, CF Sherway Gardens & CF Shops at Don Mills. Restaurants and food court vendors will continue to offer take-out and delivery services only. For operating hours related to these malls, please visit cfshops.com.

“The health of our employees, clients and guests is always our first priority. While this is disappointing news for our community, with everything we know right now, we believe this is the best course of action amid the current COVID-19 environment. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and work with provincial and public health authorities as required.

“For a full list of the precautions we are taking as a company, please visit our website www.cadillacfairview.com.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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