Owners of stores within New Zealand shopping malls have been urged to check contracts to see if they are allowed to close because of Covid-19.

Individual stores may legally have to remain open and could face penalties if the rest of the mall is trading.

As shopping malls around the world face closure because of lockdowns, New Zealand malls remain open.

In America and France, hundreds of malls are closed until at least the end of March to stop the spread of Covid-19.


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Estimates from GlobalData Retail revealed about 11.4 per cent of all shops in the US are closed or will close.

Pharmacies and supermarkets remain open.

A property and leasing lawyer at New Zealand firm Bell Gully said retailers needed to check their agreements before closing doors.

"The situation will be more complex for retailers in shopping centres who will probably also have lease obligations," Jane Holland said.

"These could require them to keep trading and which may impose penalties if they close their doors."

Holland urged landlords and tenants to be check documents to work out how the pandemic affected key clauses such as the payment of rent.

Liz Coats, from Bell Gully, said the firm had received a number of calls from clients whose employees could not work from home - including retail and hospitality.


"The Government's announcement regarding Covid-19 leave and wage subsidies provides some reassurance for the short term, but many of these businesses face significant uncertainty over the coming months," she said.

"We expect that stores in malls and hospitality businesses will need to consider whether it remains viable to operate in this environment."

Malls and outlets across America are closed temporarily because of Covid-19. Photo / Getty Images
Malls and outlets across America are closed temporarily because of Covid-19. Photo / Getty Images

Westfield confirmed today all 42 of its centres in New Zealand and Australia will remain open unless instructed to do otherwise by health authorities.

This had some store owners worried.

"We obviously want to stay open but we need to know our rights if we don't have the staff or if there are no customers," one store owner said.

And some retail workers expressed concern for their own health if customers kept coming in.


"We have to be there because our employers want to stay in business, but it's putting us at risk," the worker said.

"The Government needs to order the temporary closure of non-essential businesses that have face-to-face contact with the public."

A spokeswoman for Scentre Group, which owns Westfield in New Zealand and Australia, said concerns from any retailers should be raised with centre management.

"We are engaging directly with retailers on a case-by-case basis as they manage their business through this volatile period," the spokeswoman said.

"We encourage our retailers to keep talking to us directly about their specific needs.

"If retailers are in doubt as to who to speak to, contact your local Westfield centre management in the first instance."


The Scentre spokeswoman said health and safety were paramount and stores had comprehensive cleaning systems in place.

"It's important to give retailers the opportunity to trade and engage with customers throughout this period, especially given shopping centres are regarded as 'essential activities," she said.

Malls had increased the routine cleaning of frequently touched hard surfaces, including in car parks.