Some Metro Detroit malls to reopen this week with restrictions, appointments

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

After locking their doors 10 weeks ago at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, some of Metro Detroit's largest shopping malls expect to re-open this week with limited hours, digital in-store appointments and curbside pickup.

Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills and Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi will reopen their exterior doors Thursday. Somerset Collection in Troy will follow on Friday.

Somerset Collection will reopen Friday. On a Monday earlier this month, there was no traffic to be seen.

Malls are reopening on reduced daily schedules, and individual store hours may vary. Mall operators are taking other steps to ease concerns of shoppers: Play areas and drinking fountains will be closed, and furniture throughout the malls and food courts will be rearranged to keep customers apart, Twelve Oaks and Great Lakes officials said on their websites. Somerset officials said they would offer more details Wednesday.

The malls say they are opening within the scope of the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive order which lifted some restrictions on retail businesses and auto dealerships across the state beginning Tuesday. 

Businesses must post signage requiring customers and employees to social-distance and wear face masks, create checkout lines with foot markings, physical barriers at checkout areas and enhance sanitizing for high-touch areas.

Retailers must limit people in the store, including employees, to 25% of the total capacity limits, with a limit of 10 people. To get around those limits and long waits, some stores are offering curbside service.

Under the new policies, visits must be made by appointment. 

Great Lakes Crossing Outlets is going completely digital and appointments will be managed by each retailer, said Gary Neumann, the mall's general manager. 

Here's how it works at that mall: After entering through exterior doors, customers will be able to walk up and make in-store shopping appointments for available stores using a mobile queuing app. They'll be able to return to their cars or walk the mall until receiving a notification when it's their turn.

Crews are installing signs and decals with directions on how to use the new mall system while safely skipping through the districts.

"It has been challenging, as every business has faced during this, and we spent a lot of time curating a model to make sure our employees and customers are safe," Neumann said. "With the app, we won't have anyone waiting in lines."

Neumann said the mall notified tenants of the new system Tuesday morning and it's unclear how many will jump on in time for the opening Thursday.

"Most are trying to work (their systems) out now and how to manage their own reopenings after months of being closed," he said. "We think it will start slow and eventually ramp up."

Twelve Oaks will also offer tenants access to a virtual queuing system. The mall anticipates roughly 20%-40% of its tenants opening, and will steadily ramp up over time as operations return to normal.

"We are following the governor’s executive order and retailers will make appointments with customers and directly manage capacity inside of their spaces," said spokeswoman Kelsey Kiefer. "Customers may enter the mall to seek an appointment, but must always adhere to social distancing guidelines."

The order restricts up to 10 customers per space; however, some small stores in Great Lakes won't allow that, while larger stores could easily accommodate more, Neumann said.

"We're excited to get started on the process and have those retailers that are able to on Thursday and work with other retailers on getting their systems in order to eventually welcome everyone back," he said.

Customers should check with specific stores and restaurant's hours and see if they are participating in curbside pickup or appointments for in-store shopping.

As of Tuesday, Michigan has linked 5,266 deaths to the virus and has recorded more than 55,000 known cases of COVID-19.

Mall reopenings

Starting Thursday, Great Lakes Crossing Outlets and Twelve Oaks Mall will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Somerset Collection will reopen Friday, with hours to be announced.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_