Do malls need to add curbside pickup service to reopen?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the blog of Nikki Baird, VP of retail innovation at Aptos. The article first appeared on Forbes.com.
Malls, already struggling to drive traffic pre-COVID-19, are essentially a gathering place — but mall shopping is now an activity either prohibited, restricted or flat out perceived as too risky by consumers.
To address the problem, malls need to enable stores inside to sell, while enabling social distancing.
Retailers that have their own exterior storefronts — even anchors at malls — have the capacity to support BOPAC (buy online pickup at curbside). But most stores between anchors do not, making it hard to serve customers without letting them in the building. Turning store associates into stock-runners delivering packages to cars in far-off parking lots doesn’t seem feasible.
An option for some has been partnering with a third-party curbside service. The store signals that a package is waiting to be picked up, the service collects and saves the package at the entrance, and the customer picks it up. For widespread adoption, however, the mall will likely have to be convinced this is an investment in differentiated service worth making. Consumers and inside-mall stores aren’t likely to pay extra.
Another challenge is that fashion retailers have been slow to expose store inventory online — a key requirement in enabling BOPAC since the order would most likely have to originate through the website. And BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in-store) is also not widely available just because the use-case never really made sense in malls. It is hardly convenient to pick up in-store when such a trip involves parking who knows where, trudging into the mall and then navigating to the store just to grab a bag, turn around and leave.
BOPAC won’t be quite the savior for non-essential retail that omnichannel has generally been during these trying times. But mall-based retailers need to seriously consider how to get the inventory trapped in malls out – as soon as possible, as safely as possible.
Some malls are helping. Houston’s Willowbrook Mall just rolled out curbside pickup, and Westfield has introduced drive-through click and collect in Australia. There are many others that are going to have to leave it to retailers to figure out — or stay closed.
- Will Malls Need BOPAC To Reopen? – Forbes
- Willowbrook Mall stores among northwest Houston retailers to reopen with curbside pickup – Houston Chronicle
- Westfield shopping centres reveal new drive-thru service – Yahoo News Australia
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How much consumer appeal do you see for curbside pickup at shopping malls? What will it take to make this type of service work for both consumers and merchants?