Big mall operator Macerich began thinking in earnest about Holiday 2020 during the summer when it became clear it would be a holiday season like no other.
“We looked to Asia, we looked to Europe, we talked to our customers. We wanted to know what people were looking for when they returned to shopping,” said Olivia Bartel Leigh, COO of the company that owns 52 centers encompassing 51 million sq. ft. of gross leasable area.
Cleanliness and safety were clearly the chief standards being demanded by people willing to mingle in enclosed malls, so Macerich invested in electrostatic sprayers that allow sanitizing chemicals to adhere to surfaces longer. Also installed at its properties were hospital-grade filtration systems and higher quality HVAC systems.
“We made sure we cemented our relationships with direct suppliers, because you had to be out there early to acquire these items and you had to be persistent,” Leigh said. “Our VP of operations Neal Kleinman came to be known as the King of Hand Sanitizer.”
Like most retail real estate operators in 2020, Macerich decided to close its malls on Thanksgiving and is running a 30-second TV spot in its markets picturing families celebrating the day. The homey ad concludes with the inscription, “A time to be together, a time to be thankful. So on Thanksgiving, it’s our time to be closed.”
When shoppers do return, as hoped, on Black Friday, Macerich will welcome them with the theme of “Gift Assurance.”
“We’re expecting a lot of online shopping this year, but we’ve also been reading that, perhaps, online purchase fulfillment is not going to be as seamless as it’s been in the past,” said Macerich head of marketing Kurt Ivey. “So we’re promoting physical retail as a surer way to get your hands on gifts in time.”
Worried about possible inventory fall-offs, Macerich instituted a program for shoppers to start their shopping early online and come to the mall to pick up their merchandise.
“Dropped to your car, not into a cart; dropped under a tree, not under a truck,” tag lined the marketing chief.