The second of our client reopening interview series features Shanna Head, Director of Marketing at Outlets of Mississippi.
Q: Are there any practices your properties have implemented during the pandemic that you plan to keep/enhance? (If yes, what are those practices?)
Shanna: One thing the Outlets of Mississippi takes great pride in is the cleanliness of our property. Having sanitary guidelines already in place before Covid-19 was key, but we definitely have upped our cleaning game since. We even documented placing hand sanitizer stations throughout the center on our social media pages so our followers could see the ways we were making the shopping center safer. Sanitary guideline posters were also placed at all entrances as well as on food court doors and restroom hallways to encourage safe social distancing and hand washing. That is definitely one thing we’ll keep around moving forward.
Q: What differences have you noticed when it comes to openings in different geographic locations?
Shanna: It’s quite obvious that different parts of the U.S. are opening businesses at much different paces. We are located in the south where businesses began opening their doors somewhat sooner than other areas of the country. However, we have followed all protocols set in place by our state government and have encouraged all tenants to follow WHO & CDC guidelines. Of course each brand is being instructed the same from their corporate offices, but we do have several boutiques and independently owned businesses that we did help guide upon reopening.
Q: As your center begins to reopen, have you noticed any trends in which safety measures shoppers seem to value most?
Shanna: I’m very happy to say that a majority of shoppers at our center do wear face masks. As it is not required to wear a mask while walking outside around the property, most brands do require their employees to wear masks and encourage shoppers to do the same. Some brands actually provide masks upon entering and do have hand sanitizer stations. Several stores began selling and promoting masks, and let me say that leopard print face mask are so IN right now! All jokes aside, it’s really nice to see how something that can be considered so taboo actually become fashionable while helping keep everyone safe.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge for your team?
Shanna: Obviously having stores closed (some longer than others) affected everything. And just like many businesses had to alter their practices such as focusing more on online sales vs in-store sales, we too had to restructure how we advertised. When you can’t spend money, you’ve got to focus on things you can control such as utilizing social media more or focusing on contracted digital services. Luckily, we’ve built some really great relationships with our advertisers, and several offered free digital and radio advertisement to help promote our stores reopening. Now that we are almost open to full capacity, we look forward to getting back to a regular advertising schedule.
Q: What has helped your team most during this pandemic (communication tactics, technologies, etc)?
Shanna: One thing that really did help us in the beginning when we began reopening stores was our relationship with our media partners. It was a huge deal when our Governor announced that shopping centers could resume business under certain protocol. Being privately owned, we were the only shopping center within 50 miles to reopen. All of the media focused on us and we were able to share our sanitary plans and talk about all the efforts being made that would help put shoppers at ease for when they decided they felt safe enough to venture out and shop. And trust me, they were very eager to get out of the house after several weeks of stay-at-home!
Q: In your opinion, what does the future of retail look like?
Shanna: We are very hopeful for the future of retail! This pandemic definitely delayed the process of bringing in several new top name brands to our shopping center, but that is all it did – delay. We still anticipate growing our brands in the coming year and will continue to provide the best in shopping in the state of Mississippi.
Stay tuned as we continue to share what others in the industry are experiencing as shopping centers begin to reopen nationwide.