Malls work to bring back foot traffic during the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic took its toll on retail outlets nationwide, but area shopping malls are doing their part to bring back foot traffic.

Officials with Dayton Mall and Austin Landing in Miami Twp. and The Mall at Fairfield Crossing say that almost 100 percent of their stores have reopened and that all three are taking measures to keep shoppers safe as they peruse their respective retail offerings.

The store openings coincides with good retail news last week. U.S. retail purchases increased 1.2% in July, restoring sales to pre-pandemic levels, according to statistics released Friday by the National Retail Federation.

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Dayton Mall has been “energized” to welcome guests back to the town center, hosting several free and socially distant drive-in concerts in recent months and launching new curbside pickup program Retail To-Go last month, according to general manager Dave Duebber.

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During mall hours shoppers can make purchases directly with participating retailers via phone, online or app, then pick up purchases at Dayton Mall.

“The ability for people to start getting back to some type of normal activities, while observing all COVID-19 protocols and safety measures, has been evident in our traffic figures since reopening in May,” Duebber said. “Traffic counts continue to grow week over week.”

Nearly all of the mall’s tenants have reopened and continue to see strong sales, he said.

“While no one can predict the future, we are very encouraged that things will continue to improve as our resilient communities adapt to “new norms”.

A transformation is underway to strengthen Dayton Mall as the hub of retail, dining and entertainment in the area, Duebber said. Parent company Washington Prime Group is planning to invest millions of dollars into the town center over the next several years, he said.

“Just as any business, COVID-19 has put us behind,” he said. “Details are still being developed and budgets are still being set.”

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Before the mall reopened in May, it launched the Dayton Mall Non-Profit Co-Op, a social distancing, touchless donation center collecting nonperishable food items and essential items such as deodorant and toothpaste, paper goods such as paper towels and toilet paper, baby items, school supplies, games and toys, plus dog and cat food and supplies.

The co-op is now inside the mall, where volunteers have helped sort and shelf all items. It serves about 10 local non-profits who are in need of those items, and their staff and/or volunteers make appointments to pick up items they need for their clients and people they serve, Duebber said.

“So far these donations, with the help of the local non-profits, have helped several thousand residents of Montgomery County,” he said.

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Dayton Mall also has hosted a variety of supply and blood drives to give back to the local community during the ongoing health crisis, Duebber said.

To generate foot traffic, the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek has partnered with local non-profits and organized carry out events with the Red Cross, Mosaic Church and Crayons to Classrooms. That has led to “multiple successful” monthly blood drives, community church drive-ins and generous donations to the community, according to general manager Leanne Rubosky.

“We’re honored to serve our local community as a goodwill ambassador and as a force for good during this unprecedented and difficult time,” Rubosky said. “Now is the time for us to come together to make a difference with community activities in accordance with the local guidelines.”

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The Mall at Fairfield Commons also has held children’s programming events, modifying them to be drive-in or to-go in nature.

The mall also has also offered a free weekly outdoor yoga experience where guests can participate in a Summer Sweat Series.

In June, it offered Cinema Under the Stars and had hundreds of guests view movies in its parking lot drive-in style. In July, the mall partnered with the city of Beavercreek and provided safe distancing to view Independence Day fireworks.

The mall also is set to welcome several new tenants in the coming weeks including jewelry accessory store Awe Snap!, men’s and women’s clothing boutique Top Notch, restaurant Basil’s On Market and Medicare Resource Center. Hall’s Jewelers opened Thursday.

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Austin Landing helps generate foot traffic by posting to Facebook sent to it by stores and restaurants within the Miami Twp. destination, according to property manager Jennifer Blair.

It also has allowed tenants to place signage near the main roadways to let motorists know they have reopened, Blair said.

All of Austin Landing’s tenants have reopened except for Bar 145, which shut down in March, she said. The Spicy Olive relocated to Oakwood in July.

Austin Landings’ social events have not occurred because of COVID-19 restrictions, Blair said.

“We’re going to try very hard to do our annual Christmas tree lighting,” she said.

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