Simon to reopen half of its malls within a week as states begin to reopen

The nation’s biggest mall owner plans to reopen roughly half of its shopping centers within a week, according to its CEO.

Simon Property Group had already reopened 77 US retail properties as of Monday with coronavirus safeguards in place such as social distancing, increased sanitizing and health screenings for employees, David Simon said.

The company — whose US portfolio includes more than 200 malls, outlet centers and other properties — started reopening locations last week in places where officials have eased restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the bug, Simon said. Those lockdowns have upended the retail industry by shuttering stores across the country.

“We are, of course, working in conjunction with state and local governments and our reopening plans,” Simon told analysts on a Monday conference call. “Shopper response to our reopenings has been positive, and sales as many tenants have been better than their initial expectations.”

While he did not detail how many stores had reopened within the malls, Simon said major chains including Macy’s, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus — which filed for bankruptcy last week — were ready to restart.

Details of Simon’s reopening plans came as the Indiana-based company revealed its first-quarter net income dropped 20.2 percent to $437.6 million. Simon said business was strong in the first two months of the year before the coronavirus forced the firm to close malls and cut costs in March.

The company warned that it could see a “material reduction” in rent collections as tenants struggle during the virus crisis.

Simon said it had agreed to rent deferrals and some concessions, but discussions with tenants are ongoing.

Simon’s struggles came as the coronavirus plunged retailers such as J.Crew, Neiman Marcus and Stage Stores into bankruptcy. The pandemic caused nationwide retail sales to plunge by a record 8.7 percent in March.

Simon shares jumped 8.2 percent in premarket trading to $59.70 as of 7:33 a.m. Tuesday after dropping 5 percent on Monday.

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