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Retail stores forced to adapt during COVID-19 pandemic

“One of the things the pandemic has done is change the way a lot of people look at shopping,” Cox said.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — While most retail stores remain closed in North Carolina, malls and shopping centers in many neighboring states are back open for business.

Monday, apparel company J. Crew became the first major retailer to file for bankruptcy during the pandemic. J. Crew and many other retailers were struggling before the pandemic, but the coronavirus is now accelerating their decline.

Charlotte Premium Outlets is one of four Simon malls in the Charlotte set to re-open Friday, but will shoppers return? 

It’s a question many retailers are currently sweating.

“We all know they’re closing stores,” Queens University of Charlotte marketing professor Dr. Steven Cox said. “Macy’s is closing stores. Penney’s is closing stores.”

Dr. Cox says the coronavirus is just exacerbating a problem that retailers faced before the pandemic.

“The malls and big department stores are not generating enough revenue,” Cox said.

A CNBC report says over 50% of department stores in malls are predicted to close by 2021. If malls lose anchor tenants like Macy’s and Belk, entire shopping centers could be forced out of business.

“One of the things the pandemic has done is change the way a lot of people look at shopping,” Cox said.

While stuck in their homes over the past several weeks, more people than ever are shopping online. E-commerce giant Amazon reported a 26% increase in first-quarter sales compared to 2019. 

For several decades malls existed largely on the premise of convenience.

“Now the internet is much more convenient,” Cox said. “I can shop from the comfort of my own home.”

Dr. Cox says he doesn’t think malls will go away completely. He thinks they’ll adapt and be “re-imagined”. Cox said the could add doctor’s offices, gyms, or other non-retail options.

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