Despite the pandemic, some retailers are still opening new locations. Publix, Ross Dress For Less, Burlington Stores, Hobby Lobby and Chase Bank are due to open soon in the River Landing Shops and Residences, west of downtown Miami.
These businesses have some things in common. Some offer essential services while others offer hard-to-find items.
"Some of the tenants have figured out how to manage the business [during COVID] and they are selling some things that just can't be got online," said Andrew Hellinger, co-principal of Urban-X Group and Developer of the River Landing shops and residences. "It's difficult to buy things online that Five Below or Ross or Burlington sell."
Even so, it is difficult to paint all retail strategies with one broad brush. Some businesses do a lot better than others. Some surprising winners have popped up outside of dollar stores, grocery stores, and pharmacies. "A strange situation is the lack of handicrafts in this country because so many people are at home to do handicrafts," says Hellinger.
The hope for vaccinations and better COVID therapies is causing the opening dates to be postponed. "Since we have COVID under control and the upcoming vaccinations are getting closer, the tenants are rethinking the opening dates," says Hellinger. “Some of them originally planned to be closed by spring or summer 2021 or to have limited operations. With retail demand soaring, most are rethinking this original plan and now want to open it in fall or winter 2020. "
Almost half of the 2.2 million square foot River Landing project will be home to big box and boutique retailers when completed in the second half of 2020. According to Hellinger, Urban-X took the needs of the tenants into account when it opened.
Hellinger believes that after the fear of the virus subsides, the number of shoppers will subside as people seek retail therapy that includes in-store shopping, dining and entertainment experiences. While stores competing with Amazon may not experience this phenomenon, retailers that grew before the pandemic, such as Burlington, Ross, Old Navy, TJ Maxx, and Five Below, should see pent-up demand.
"We call it retail therapy," says Hellinger. “It's the experience of shopping and walking around. You may shop on your own, but there are other people around you. So you are part of a herd, but not in the herd. You're alone and want to spend a few dollars to buy something that will grab your attention, whether it's a new shirt, new pants, shoes, or crafts. That's what the mall is all about. "
Once the pandemic is over, Hellinger is confident that people will be back outside. He has already seen a few indoor food halls that have moved their operations to rooftops.
"You are as full as possible under COVID with people who just want to go out," Hellinger says.