The East Rutherford, New Jersey, mall began a phased opening in late 2019 with its Nickelodeon Theme Park opening in the fall and an indoor ski slope opening during the winter. The complex was set to have a grand opening for dozens of retailers on March 19. Instead, the mall shut down completely on March 16, as the United States began to go on lockdown.
The 3-million-square-foot property — equipped with an indoor theme park with more than 35 rides, roller coasters and attractions and a water park with more than 40 water slides — is reopening at a perilous time for American retailers and at a moment when shoppers may still be wary of lingering indoors.
In September alone, Bed Bath & Beyond and GameStop announced store closures, and Sur La Table and Century 21 filed for bankruptcy.
Mall vacancies hit a record high in early September, at 9.8%, according to commercial real estate research firm Reis.
The mall has outlined a set of Covid-19 safety protocols for the property. The list includes physical distancing guidance, which will be implemented with plexiglass barriers, seat markings and touchless programming at guest services areas. The mall will reduce capacity to 25%, and hand sanitizer will be provided. Face masks are required throughout the mall, and staff will be frequently cleaning and sanitizing the property.
Experts expect the number of mall closures to increase over the next five years as consumers avoid in-person shopping and continue to gravitate toward shopping online.