Here’s What Texas Stores and Malls Came Up With For New “Retail To Go”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s “retail-to-go” phase of reopening the state’s economy starts Friday. But your favorite store may not be ready, and don’t expect to stroll into the mall.
A week’s notice may not be enough for some, from individual shop owners worried about new world protocols to store managers who must get payment systems turned back on and clearance from corporate offices outside Texas that are preoccupied with bigger issues.
And small shop owners said they haven’t received funds from federal loans yet to pay the employees they need to offer retail to go.
Susan Saffron, owner of a jewelry boutique now celebrating 10 years in Inwood Village, is ready to return after sales declined 80% during the past four weeks.
“We’re coming back with a limited staff and the lights on and some great energy with Mother’s Day coming up,” said the owner of Susan Saffron Jewelry Boutique, just off Lovers Lane in Dallas. “We believe that people in the neighborhood want to support us.”
But some stores may sit it out for a while.
The tepid response may signal how hard it’s going to be to jump-start the economy just as Abbott is saying on radio interviews that he may allow hair salons, movie theaters, restaurants and stores to open next week.
The owners of everything from major malls to small shops don’t know what to expect.
“I’m ready to go back to work; on the other hand, I think: ‘What are we doing?’ ” said Betty Reiter, who owns a women’s apparel boutique in the Plaza at Preston Center. She has repurposed T-shirts with her logo into masks to sell. “It’s hard to be a small business now. We don’t have deep pockets.”
Stores and malls are quickly setting up retail-to-go plans to accommodate the partial reopening. There are guidelines from Abbott’s office that include practices such as wearing masks and delivering packages to the customer’s trunk or back seat.
NorthPark Center, Galleria Dallas, Stonebriar Centre, Mesquite’s Town East Mall and The Parks at Arlington have designated parking areas for pickup. Other area malls including Grapevine Mills say they are still figuring out what they’re doing.
NorthPark will have employees and security staff stationed at four parking lot locations, said Kristen Gibbens, executive director of marketing. “The directive for retail-to-go came just a few days ago, so brands are working on processes to be able to operate within the new guidelines. We anticipate more stores will come on board soon.”
To shop at NorthPark, shoppers are asked to check the list of stores participating and then contact the individual store by phone or online to confirm operating hours and whether the item is in stock. Then payment is arranged, and the store will tell you which of four color-coded parking lots to go to and when. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. The map is online, and there are signs in the entrance driveways to the mall’s parking lots.
Sixteen stores at NorthPark are participating, including the four anchor department stores — Dillard’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. Other stores include Williams Sonoma, David Yurman and Saint Laurent. Six restaurants have been offering curbside for a while. Other stores say they’re coming soon, including Lego, Free People and Anthropologie.
At Galleria Dallas, 14 stores and restaurants are participating, including Louis Vuitton, Bachendorf’s and the Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop. Customers picking up are asked to go to the parking area in front of the Westin Hotel from noon to 6 p.m.
“We are ready to support our retailers who are participating in retail-to-go but need to make sure we do it safely and in accordance with local government orders,” said Angie Freed, Galleria’s general manager.
At Frisco’s Stonebriar Centre, packages can be picked up at the lot in front of Cheesecake Factory and Barnes & Noble. The book store, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Nordstrom are taking orders from shoppers, and it’s up to individual stores whether they participate, said Lindsay Kahn, a spokeswoman for Brookfield Properties, which also owns The Parks in Arlington, where 23 stores are participating, including Dillard’s and J.C. Penney.
J.C. Penney is opening a few stores to start with, including one more local store in Hurst at North East Mall and others in Houston, San Antonio, Tyler and Laredo.
All Neiman Marcus and Last Call stores in Texas will be offering curbside pickup for merchandise and gift cards, said spokesman John Walls. Customers can choose the option when checking out online or work directly with their sales associate.
Dallas-based Half Price Books said all of its 19 Dallas-Fort Worth stores will fill phoned-in curbside orders.About 10 stores, including Beretta Gallery, Hadleigh’s and Loro Piana, are participating at Highland Park Village with limited pickup hours. Check the website, said spokeswoman Hendrika Diehl.
No one really knows whether consumers are ready to shop this way starting Friday. Stay-at-home rules and social distancing are still recommended by experts and government officials on the local, state and federal levels.
But e-commerce trends suggest that they’re ready.
“Yes, absolutely. There’s a consumer who’s been hit in their pocketbooks and others who have a need or have squirreled some money away, and they want to shop local,” said Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, chief growth officer at Austin-based Convey, a software company for retailers’ customer logistics.
E-commerce has been growing in each of the last five weeks, and last week was up 63% from a year ago, Newbold-Knipp said. In the same survey, 87% of consumers said they were ready to buy from local merchants where they can buy online and pick up in stores.
For a while, people will be confused by “the new etiquette of shopping,” said Dave Marcotte, senior vice president at Kantar consulting. It happened to him, he said, when he went to a liquor store and stood on a yellow line only to be told that he needed to get back in his car and his order would be out shortly.
“It will be interesting to see how long six feet [distancing] will last,” he said. “People have internalized it already.”
Store owners are adapting, too.
Nichole Fiorentino, who owns The Feathered Nest on 15th Street in downtown Plano, started participating in a live online Facebook sale on Wednesday evenings while her apparel and gift shop has been closed. She’s planning to be there for curbside shoppers, which in downtown Plano often means people walking up to the store. “I guess I’ll open the door and leave it outside and watch them through the window,” she said.
Fiorentino said she’s concerned about how to make her store a safe environment when she can open again, which may be soon, based on what Abbott has said.
“We’ve already been shipping to regular customers,” Fiorentino said. “But there’s another customer like me who wants to touch everything and try it on.
“I want to be able to put a sign in my store saying ‘We sanitize our store regularly,’ but I’m not sure how to do that,” she said. “I don’t know how to feel comfortable about being open.”
This article was originally posted on 4/23/20 in the Dallas Morning News.
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