Food halls will be emptier, tap-and-go payments will be favoured over cash, floors will have social distancing markings and staff will wear gloves: welcome to the new normal in New Zealand malls.
Campbell Barbour, chairman of the NZ Council of Retail Property, announced what he called "stringent new standards" to be enforced by mall owners, ensuring it is safe for people to shop from this Thursday morning.
One-way queuing, ground markings with stickers and tape, displaying static and digital messages about social distancing and regular public address announcements to encourage staying wider apart are some of the measures mall owners plan.
Barbour's comments follow Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing yesterday that shops and restaurants will be able to open from Thursday this week and bars from Thursday next week.
Barbour said retail property and shopping centre owners throughout New Zealand were now busily preparing stores to meet the Government's objectives and operational protocols under alert level 2.
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Multibillion-dollar businesses Kiwi Property, Stride Property, Oyster, Colliers Management, Scentre Group, AMP, New Zealand Retail Property Group and Tinline Property are in the council.
So the new standards will be applied at many centres including Westfields in Albany, Newmarket, St Lukes, Manukau and Riccarton, at Dress Smarts in Onehunga and Wellington and Hornby in Christchurch, at Botany Town Centre, The Palms in Christchurch, in Nelson, at Sylvia Park in Mt Wellington and the lifestyle centre opposite and Westgate's NorthWest and other shops at that Massey complex.
"Our members, which include many of the country's largest retail property owners, welcome yesterday's announcement that we shall soon be entering a new normal, with centres and retail stores finally able to open their doors to the public," Barbour said.
That follows closures of all retail except supermarkets and pharmacies in late March, sparking predictions many retailers would not survive the extended lockdown.
"The number one objective of all retailers and retail property owners is to ensure that shopper safety is placed at the fore, and that customers feel comfortable with the measures put in place," Barbour said.
The council has created a set of guidelines and operational protocols that all members will adhere to under alert level 2, he said.
The guidelines are for social distancing via signs, more hygiene and sanitation procedures, round-the-clock cleaning schedules, encouraging contactless transactions, limiting common dining seating areas, and providing support to those businesses with specific regulations such as hairdressers and beauty clinics.
"While each centre will have a unique application of these guidelines depending on their layout, the aim is to implement widespread procedures that ensure the highest standard of safety and hygiene are met," Barbour said.
"No one wants to see us move back up the alert levels. It is imperative that a united approach is taken."
High touchpoint surfaces like handrails will be cleaned regularly. Guards might be stationed at entranceways and staff could direct customers to move about malls in a different pattern to what they are used to.
Tap and go transactions will be favoured over cash payments. Centre staff could well be wearing disposable gloves to handle objects and money.
Face masks and gloves will be made available for security and cleaning staff.
If food hall seats cannot be distanced, some parts of seating areas could be closed, the guidelines say.