The biggest mall owner in the U.S. is preparing to open a number of its properties across the country, as states such as South Carolina and Georgia start to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an internal memo that was obtained by CNBC.
Simon Property Group is reopening 49 of its malls and outlet centers Friday through Monday, the memo said, including Haywood Mall in Greenville, South Carolina, and Lenox Square in Atlanta. (A full list of all 49 locations and exact reopening dates is below.)
A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.
Business hours at the malls and outlet centers will be limited to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, to allow for cleaning overnight, according to the memo. Simon said it will regularly sanitize high-touch areas such as food court tables, escalators, door knobs and electronic directories. And it is encouraging retailers to do the same in their stores.
Meantime, Simon said it will encourage shoppers to take their temperatures before going to the mall. At the mall, it will make free temperature testing available to customers, using infrared thermometers, it said.
Free CDC-approved masks and hand sanitizing packets will also be available to the shoppers who ask for them. Simon said it will encourage shoppers to wear masks or some sort of facial coverings while they shop. Simon is mandating its employees wear masks while they are working and take "frequent breaks for handwashing."
To ensure its employees and shoppers maintain distance, Simon is taking a number of steps. Those include: Putting tape over every other sink and urinal in restrooms, putting decals on floors to direct traffic flow, limiting food court seating and keeping play areas and drinking fountains closed.
It said it will limit the number of entrances to each property and make sure that occupancy does not exceed one person per 50 square feet of space, using traffic measuring technology.
Per the memo, Simon is also encouraging retailers and other tenants to use technology, such as Apple Pay, that allows for contactless transactions.
It will be left up to the retailers at these properties — such as Macy's, American Eagle and Victoria's Secret — to decide whether they wish to reopen for business. Many have furloughed the majority of their store workers, and it could take some time to bring them back. Retailers will also be tasked with stocking fresh inventory and selling through stale merchandise that has been sitting on shelves.
Some might be more eager than others to turn the lights back on. Nordstrom had warned its financial situation could become distressed because of coronavirus-related store closures. Gap said last week that it did not pay rent in April, adding it might not have enough cash to keep funding its operations.
Few retailers have detailed what it will be like when customers return to their stores. Best Buy outlined its plans late Tuesday. The electronics retailer, which is typically located away from traditional shopping malls, said it will allow customers to schedule in-store consultations with a personal shopper when it begins to reopen. That approach may work for retailers who sell higher ticket items, but would not likely work for other types of stores.
It remains unclear how fast people will want to return to malls. A little over 45% of consumers expect to avoid shopping centers and malls even after the lockdown ends, according to a study by Coresight Research. More people will avoid malls than movie theaters or public transportation, it said.
Simon on March 18 announced it would be closing all of its properties temporarily, to try to help halt the spread of Covid-19. Others, such as Taubman Centers, Washington Prime Group and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, followed suit.
Simon CEO David Simon also sits on President Donald Trump's committee of executives tasked to help reopen the U.S. economy.
Here is the full list of the 49 locations set to reopen at the beginning of May: