Re-open, re-close, re-open: The newest video game in retail real estate

Al Urbanski
Real Estate Editor & Manager
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On July 1, Apple announced it would re-close 30 more stores it had already re-opened during the COVID-19 crisis. That brought the highly trafficked retail division’s list of stores it has re-closed to 77.

By no means is Apple the only national chain being forced to stop and take a step back. New COVID-19 cases are being racked up heavily in Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, and California -- states that were lightly affected at the outset of the pandemic. The situation has retailers in a tizzy.

“People are taking a map an overlaying their store locations and COVID hotspots and using it to play whack-a-ball: ‘We can open here; we can’t open there.’ The re-opening thing has not gone as planned and it’s turned a digital map of their locations into a video game,” said Tom Buiocchi, CEO of ServiceChannel, an online work-order hook-up service used by retailers like CVS, Trader Joe's, and 24 Hour Fitness.

One of the primary setups for this game is cataloging contractors who agree to be in compliance with government sanitation standards in all of their market areas.

“One major national restaurant chain -- basically, though our app -- sent out a form to every contactor that does work at any of their locations and asked them to accept new terms in relation to use of PPE, compliance, and different entry and exit rules,” Buiocchi said.

As buildouts and property renovations remain stalled during the pandemic, many contractors have kept busy by shifting into janitorial and sanitation services. Versus this time last year, ServiceChannel work orders for general cleaning were up 54% at luxury retailers. Restaurants increased their janitorial services by 39% and their deep cleaning of kitchen equipment by 43%.

Buiocchi said that many slow on-the-shelf builders have branched into advanced sterilization services necessary for compliance with post-pandemic standards. Work orders for such jobs were up by more than 50% in every industry vertical represented in the ServiceChannel network.