Will a PPE retailer make it in the mall?
Trade show display company Hatch Exhibits watched the event space dry up as the novel coronavirus outbreak shut down big gatherings nationwide, a set of circumstances that will likely remain for the foreseeable future. The company pivoted to making personal protective equipment (PPE) for universities and healthcare firms to keep its doors open and staff on board. The firm has decided to not only stick with the business, but plans to launch a brick-and-mortar store with a full selection of PPE.
The store, called Shield Pals, will sell masks, gowns and protective face shields in the recently reopened Mall in Columbia, a shopping center in Columbia, MD, according to a be located on the second floor of the mall.
The Shield Pals line of products, already available on the manufacturers’ website, is currently aimed at dentists who work with small children. The products displayed on the website consist of face shields overlaid with cartoon animal noses, robot helmets, crowns and even a hamburger. The products are available in adult sizes, as well as those that fit toddlers and teens.
Having PPE for sale in a mall, something unfathomable in the U.S. three months ago, could emerge as a fixture of the new shopping experience in a world where customers are more aware of the ease with which pathogens can spread.
In fact, the mall management in Columbia, even before inking the deal with Hatch Exhibits, knew that they would want a PPE retailer when they reopened, according to the press release.
Malls continue to demand reinvention as the anchor department stores that were once the foundation of the shopping experience struggle and go out of business.
The long-predicted death of the department store appears to have been hastened by the novel coronavirus pandemic, with an analyst quoted by CNBC estimating that more than half of the department stores anchoring U.S. malls will close by the end of 2021. This could lead to demands for rent relief and the exercise of other lease clauses by co-tenants, which could cause entire malls to close.
- Retail store selling PPE to open in Columbia – Baltimore Business Journal
- Shield Pals – Shield Pals
- Over 50% of department stores in malls predicted to close by 2021, real estate services firm says – CNBC
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Can a retailer succeed by focusing solely on branded, fashionable or niche-targeted PPE in a brick-and-mortar setting, especially a shopping mall? How might Shield Pals or similar stores have to retool or pivot their offerings after the pandemic ends?