Since mid-March, Cherry Hill’s largest shopping destination had sat largely vacant. But last Monday, it was once again bustling with people.
Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order allowed for mall reopenings on June 29. Cherry Hill Mall is limited to 50 percent of its usual capacity, and both workers and shoppers are required to wear masks inside the facility.
Lisa Wolstromer, senior marketing director for the mall, said staff have prepared for a reopening since the mid-March closure. She said the facility was constantly cleaned, but in the week leading up to reopening, staff performed a deep cleaning.
The mall is now operating under new hours as well. Monday through Saturday the facility is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Wolstromer said given efforts to limit capacity and the fact that some businesses may have limited staffing, it was thought best to scale down hours.
Hand sanitizing stations were installed throughout the mall and its welcome stations now offer masks for anyone who does not have one. Mall staff have removed all common area seating to discourage congregation. While the food court is open for takeaway, mall-goers cannot dine in at this point. Wolstromer said many mall stores installed plexiglass at checkout as another layer of protection.
State guidelines mandate that malls maintain capacity limits. Wolstromer said Cherry Hill has traffic-counting technology at every entrance that enables staff to keep tabs hourly on the number of occupants.
The majority of stores have an employee standing at the door to count the number of people entering and exiting. If stores reach capacity, they ask shoppers to form a line outside. Staffers have installed social distancing graphics outside stores to help those waiting maintain appropriate spacing.
“[Shoppers] may have to wait to come into their favorite store because it may be at capacity; they may have to be a little more patient,” Wolstromer said.
As of Monday, 100 percent of the mall’s anchor and pad site stores were open for business. Of those remaining, approximately 55 percent are back in business, with more expected in the days ahead. Wolstromer attributes the delay to the needs of some business owners for more time to sanitize and prepare their stores and get in touch with furloughed employees.
Wolstromer said while retail and restaurants — like many other industries — were hit hard in the last few months, Cherry Hill Mall officials tried to offer their support. Its staff offered webinars for small retailers and focused on helping them succeed when they could finally come back.
The mall was also active on social media and encouraged customers to shop online from its retailers. A handful of stores offered contact-free, curbside pickup of electronic orders.
“The mall has been more active than you think during the closure period,” Wolstromer said, adding that as time goes on, the expectation is for continued lifting of guidelines and the mall’s return to normal capacity.