Retailers that were considered non-essential for the last two months have an opportunity to reopen Wednesday, but under stringent new measures.
Corporations that own and operate local store franchises have their own pandemic-modified rules for employees, who have been hard at work this week to prepare for Connecticut’s soft reopening.
Westfarms Mall will be open to the public beginning May 20, Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m..- 7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.
“The safety and security of our customers and employees have been at the forefront of all of our opening plans at Westfarms,” spokesperson Amanda Sirica said. “We’re looking forward to opening to the community and having our employees return to work. We’ll be following all local government and CDC guidelines and continue to monitor them as they evolve.”
Gov. Ned Lamont has instituted specific rules to guide retailers and indoor malls like Westfarms.
Fitting rooms must be closed, there will be transparent partitions at cash registers, and anyone shopping or working must wear a face covering of some kind.
Westfarms employees are expected to clean and disinfect the building throughout the day and after hours, with a focus on high-touch, high-traffic surfaces like escalators, handrails, doorways, elevators, the common seating areas and bathrooms. Drinking fountains will be shut off. Bathrooms now have touch-free sinks, soap dispensers and hand dryers.
“We have instituted mall-wide safety guidelines, to be reflected on signage throughout the center,” Sirica said.
There are designated hand sanitizer stations and common areas were redesigned to space out seating.
Interior stores, kiosks and counter service eateries like Cinnabon have floor decals indicating the six-foot barrier between customers waiting in line. Doorways will be open at entrances and exits, with single-file in-and-out lanes.
“At the convenience of customers and retailers mall-wide we’ve offered a Westfarms Pickup Program, with designated pickup spaces at each of our four main entrances,” Sirica said.
Customers are asked to contact individual retailers to coordinate a purchase via telephone.
It was not clear which stores will be reopening this week, and calls to specific retailers went unanswered Tuesday.
Currently there are no restaurants in the mall that plan on offering outside dining options, according to Sirica.
The grassroots “mall walker program” has also been reinstituted. Walkers are encouraged to return to their routine.
“People of all ages utilize the mall as a warm option in the winter and cool option in the summer to do their walking,” Sirica said. “We want them to be able to do what they love. We’re also allowing them to access Westfarms early, an hour before we open, at 10 a.m. instead of 11.”
All retail areas and indoor malls are expected to maintain 50 percent capacity. Management does not expect there to be crowds at this time, according to Sirica.
“We don’t see it being an issue based on trends in other consumer markets where malls have opened,” she explained. “We will continue to monitor it in the days and weeks ahead, and each individual store will determine allowable limits and control access to their store individually.”
Some measures are being encouraged not enforced, but highly recommended to stop the spread of COVID-19. These include contactless payment methods and six-foot separation by person.
Marshalls and T.J. Maxx stores in Bristol, Plainville and Southington have yet to announce their reopening dates. The TJX Companies, Inc. has given no indication as to when Connecticut stores will reopen.
Kohl’s in Plainville is currently continuing to offer only curbside pick-up of online orders, daily from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. The store itself has not released an official reopening date.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.