The news that the largest U.S. mall operator, Simon Property Group, has decided to close all of its more than 200 shopping centers is expected to trigger more mass mall closings across the country.
Both Simon and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, which owns about three dozen U.S. malls, announced Wednesday that they were closing all of their properties for at least 10 days due to concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Mall developers usually have a follow-the-leader mentality in times of crisis and the move by Simon is going to make it harder for other mall operators to justify staying open.
The second-largest mall operator, Brookfield Properties, which owns more than 170 retail properties in 43 states, has yet to issue a company-wide shutdown, but a number of its malls, such as the highly profitable Ala Moana center in Hawaii, are operating on reduced hours.
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SITE Centers, one of the largest owners of U.S. open air shopping centers, also has not made any announcements about company-wide closings.
Today, the governor of Maryland ordered all malls in that state closed, following a similar decision earlier in the week by the governor of New Jersey.
Some of the most high-profile mall properties in this country have decided to close, including the Mall of America in Minnesota, Hudson Yards in Manhattan, and the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Simon Property Group said it reached its decision to close all of its malls “after extensive discussions with federal, state, and local officials.” Government officials this week have been requesting, and in some cases ordering, that Americans avoid non-essential activities, and that retail stores limit the number of shoppers allowed inside to enable greater social distancing.”
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, which owns Westfield Garden State Plaza in New Jersey, one of the top-performing malls in the country, said its malls will remain closed until at least March 29, at which point it “will reevaluate the situation.”
With more than 110 national retailers opting to close their stores, including important mall anchor chains Macy’s, JC Penney and Nordstrom, mall owners who wait too long to make a decision may find it has been made for them. Their malls may be open, but none of their tenants will be.