Homebound workers inject life into suburban malls after downtowns empty out

In this news, we discuss the Homebound workers inject life into suburban malls after downtowns empty out.

TORONTO / LISBON (Reuters) – As the coronavirus pandemic rages on and most downtown office workers in many cities are working from home at least until the end of the year, the loss of urban retailers turns out to be a gain for suburban malls.

For many years, downtown malls have been more profitable, attracting offices and tourists flocking to city centers, while suburban malls have been relegated to the role of poor relatives.

The coronavirus pandemic is turning the situation around.

“A lot of the people who used to go downtown on a daily basis no longer are,” said Tim Sanderson, director of Canadian retail at JLL JLL.N real estate services firm in Toronto. “Where do they do the dry cleaning, pick up dinner?” … They do it in their suburban mall.

Traffic in Canadian suburban malls owned by Cadillac Fairview, the real estate unit of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, is now at more than 70% of pre-pandemic levels, while lower half of the shoppers returned to its downtown malls, Operations Sal Ianoco told Reuters.

The same story reverberates around the world.

In the UK, pedestrian traffic fell 40% and 34.6%, respectively, on main streets and shopping centers in mid-October compared to a year earlier, while shopping parks saw a down just 13.2% from last year, according to data from analytics firm Springboard showed.

While owners of malls in both urban and suburban settings are expected to weather the blow of the pandemic, already struggling retailers in downtown malls have a much bleaker outlook.

As the crucial year-end shopping season approaches and few shoppers are expected to show up in downtown malls, the surge in permanent store closings and bankruptcies already seen this year is likely to set in motion. aggravate.

Jaap Tonckens, chief financial officer of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield URW.AS, Europe’s largest property owner, told Reuters the group “absolutely” sees local malls doing better than their inner-city counterparts.

German shopping center operator ECE, which operates nearly 200 shopping centers across Europe, said that while footfall has returned to around 90% of last year’s levels in neighborhoods, shopping centers in the center – cities remain about two-thirds.

“The coronavirus crisis is acting as a fire accelerator to the problems of city centers,” including falling rents and rising prices and labor costs, the German minister for labor said last month. Economics, Peter Altmaier.

SILENT EERILY

The return of office staff has been “much slower than we thought,” Toronto Mayor John Tory told Reuters, signaling the continued risk to downtown retail outlets as workers and workers alike. tourists stay away as the holidays approach.

“Obviously, public health has to come first, but anything that they can do to get people back to work will help these businesses remain viable,” Tory said.

At lunchtime on a Friday before a long weekend, Cadillac Fairview’s famous Eaton Center in downtown Toronto, North America’s busiest shopping mall before the pandemic, remained eerily quiet.

A few shoppers walked around, but in most stores staff outnumbered customers despite big discounts. Its restaurants, which had had queues before the epidemic, were deserted.

At Fairview and Yorkdale malls in the northern suburbs of Toronto in North York, it was a different story. Despite the stores’ limited capacities, weekday shoppers converged on stores from Apple to Zara to Louis Vuitton.

“Because we don’t work in the office (in downtown Toronto)… we just stay in the neighborhood that is closest to us,” said Tamara, who declined to provide her last name, while ‘she was shopping in Yorkdale with her husband.

In the suburbs, malls and unclosed malls – the former attracting cost-conscious shoppers in times of economic uncertainty, and the latter seen as safer amid the coronavirus outbreak – fared better than the farms.

“Traditionally, open-air malls, especially linear malls, but even malls, have been the poor cousins ​​of large flagship closed malls,” said Karl Littler, senior vice president of public affairs at Retail Council of Canada.

“But now outdoor malls are doing better than closed malls,” he said.

Ed Sonshine, managing director of Riocan REIT REI_u.TO, the second largest real estate trust in Canada, said the company’s suburban malls – all unclosed and mostly anchored in essential businesses like grocery stores – are doing, in many cases, even better than before the pandemic.

Yorkdale shoppers Tamara and her husband Jason will visit the mall at least once to “see what chaos is,” they said.

“But if I see a queue and have to wait to enter the store, I’m going to turn around and come back to buy online,” she says.

Reporting by Nichola Saminather in Toronto and Victoria Waldersee in Lisbon; Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Edited by Denny Thomas and Matthew Lewis

Original © Thomson Reuters

Originally posted 2020-11-08 07:46:13.

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