Will a PPE retailer make it in the mall?

Discussion
Source: Shield Pals/Instagram
Jun 19, 2020
Matthew Stern

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.

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?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"If PPEs are going to be with us for a while, and it looks like they are, it will be nice to have a place to pick them up rather than wait for an online order."
"Before we can address the viability of the concept, we have to first assume people are willing to go into malls."
"Long term success for a PPE retailer sounds like long term dismal news for the rest of the mall. It sounds like long term bad news on the vaccine front."

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10 Comments on "Will a PPE retailer make it in the mall?"


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Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

You know before I never thought this type of retailer could exist, but with the explosion in sales of fashionable masks by several brands, and other types of stylized PPE (I saw a kitty face shield yesterday at my gym), I think this can be a viable extension for some time moving forward. It’s innovative. It’s also taking advantage of a bad situation, but if it keeps people in jobs and other people protected – why not?

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Long term success for a PPE retailer sounds like long term dismal news for the rest of the mall. It sounds like long term bad news on the vaccine front. I certainly understand stores-within-a-store at select retailers while conditions warrant it, but long term success for a mall-based PPE retailer is not a cheerful thought.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

For as long as the pandemic lasts, I am sure this will be successful. Longer-term, I am not so sure it will be viable if the retailer sticks to shields and gowns. Pivoting into other areas of hygiene might give it longevity. Malls are a reasonable location, but I think an airport shop would be very successful!

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Why not? We have stores for everything else, although I see this as more of a kiosk than an actual storefront. If PPEs are going to be with us for a while, and it looks like they are, it will be nice to have a place to pick them up rather than wait for an online order to be delivered. Long term I’m not so sure, but in the short term, absolutely.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

For now, yes, this may sell. However I’m already seeing slower movement locally with promotional displays, so I personally wouldn’t invest too much into this long-term. People are growing tired of this, regardless of what they see on TV.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Before we can address the viability of the concept, we have to first assume people are willing to go into malls. The next question is about the sustainability of the demand. Short term I agree with Georganne – better to have the product available in the mall than wait to receive an order. However I, like the rest of the world, hope the need for such a retail concept doesn’t last very long.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

There is definitely room for this retailer. I hope they don’t get pushed into long term lease agreements, as I am hoping that the incredible medical minds working on this virus will soon come up with an answer. But a very credible retailer selling these quality products? Good move.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

If we’re still fixating on PPE five years from now, then the country, as we know it, is dead … at least malls will be. So no, this is not what anchor space needs to be repurposed into (I would put it in the “desperate remedy” category).

Brian Numainville
BrainTrust

Just like the discussion on the vending machines for PPE, this may have some clear runway in the near term, but long term is a bit more cloudy. Not sure a mall is the best location for this, however, as that is a place that many may not want to visit. Plus, the benefit of a vending machine is that it is more contactless (at least in the people-to-people sense). But conceptually, masks are becoming fashion accessories and I also know many people who want higher quality medical-type masks that can’t seem to find them … so this would be a great solution in that regard.

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

I see it more as a kiosk, same type that sells cell phone accessories. Even after the epidemic goes away I do wonder if US will follow Asia and make PPE masks and shields a fashion/lifestyle norm. I know in the news we hear about anti-mask protest and using it as a political statement, but in the end of recurring waves of respiratory diseases and continued aging population more susceptible to even flu variants, masks will slowly become the social norm. I think it will be interesting if more celebrities start adorning masks that will affect the overall stance.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"If PPEs are going to be with us for a while, and it looks like they are, it will be nice to have a place to pick them up rather than wait for an online order."
"Before we can address the viability of the concept, we have to first assume people are willing to go into malls."
"Long term success for a PPE retailer sounds like long term dismal news for the rest of the mall. It sounds like long term bad news on the vaccine front."

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