19 May 2020 9:35

Making useful purchases safely inside the shopping center

Subsequent to the lockdown, IGD moved quickly to guarantee that all the people working at its headquarters and shopping centers could continue to be operational and customers could continue to make purchases in complete safety.

The virus containment measures imposed resulted in significant changes being made to the operation and organization of shopping centers: changes which have been successfully implemented up until now.

The uncertainty as to the evolution and duration of the pandemic, however, leads to broader reflections about the future of the shopping center. Will the business model change?


We spoke to Daniele Cabuli, IGD’s Chief Operating Officer, about it.


Were IGD’s shopping centers in Italy open during the period when the governmental restrictions to limit contagion were in effect? 

Certainly, for the entire time.  Our shopping centers never closed as they house retailers which provide essential goods and services.  The hypermarkets, supermarkets, tobacconists, newsstands, optical and home improvement stores, as well as drugstores stayed open.  Subsequently, children’s’ shoes and apparel stores, as well as bookstores and office supply stores, were allowed to reopen. 

What steps were taken to ensure that shopping centers continued to operate while guaranteeing the health and safety of both the retailers and the shoppers? 

In full compliance with the guidelines issued by the CNCC, Consiglio Nazionale dei Centri Commerciali, of which IGD is a member, we immediately implemented a series of measures to promote social distancing.  Beginning with the parking lots, we created one way entrances and exits, with very clear information about the conduct to be adhered to while in the shopping center:  this information was provided through the use of totems, billboards, intercoms in order to ensure the awareness of all our guests. We also installed thermo cameras which make it possible to take the temperature of the people entering the shopping center.  We also modified the software used to count the number of people in the center by adding alerts which help us determine the maximum number of people who can enter in order to ensure safety and proper distancing (each person who enters should have 10 square meters of space).   All of these new procedures, naturally, required more security.  We certainly did not overlook the sanitization of the properties.  In addition to the night sanitizations, cleaning with special products was increased including during the day, along with extraordinary maintenance of the air conditioning filters.  

And what about the headquarters in Bologna? 

Already when the first cases of the epidemic were reported, we decided to prohibit travel and meetings.  Subsequently, the majority of the people who work at headquarters began to work from home.  We will continue to use smart working, which we were able to organize guaranteeing complete IT safety for the remote work processes, at least until the crisis is over  

With the beginning of phase 2 of the lockdown, over the past few days some colleagues voluntarily went back to the office, complying with the strict health and safety measures we established for the use of the common areas.  We also installed plexiglass dividers between each work station and set precise limits on the maximum number of people that can be in shared areas, depending on the size of the space. Thermal cameras will be used to take the temperature of all individuals, employees or guests, entering the Bologna headquarters, who will also be provided with masks and gloves.  A series of controls has also been determined for the sales network and shifts have been established for staffing of the different structures.    

How have your budgets for communication and marketing changed?  

Currently all activities relating to events have been suspended and will resume only when the Phase 2 restrictions are lifted. We dedicated a lot of resources to the information campaign used to explain safe shopping inside the shopping center. We also changed the online marketing campaigns, focusing on specific profiles rather than on an indistinct target audience. We are, lastly, working hard to increase the awareness as to the role of the shopping center:  we are involved in the awareness campaign underway organized by the CNCC which targets customers, tenants, as well as government authorities.  Our goal is to make people understand that shopping centers are safe, important and useful places for all.  

The professional and systematic management of the spaces and the presence of specialized security personnel ensures that customers will be welcomed in a safe and controlled environment.  We believe that this sets a standard that other retail formats cannot guarantee.

What is the future of the shopping center? 

I believe that the shopping center will continue its journeyIt’s a mature product that needs to be revitalized: we knew this already, when we, in fact, increased the space dedicated to leisure and restaurants.  The social distancing imposed by the virus and the new work habits, with less time spent in the office, call for, on the one hand, a few changes to be made to the distribution of the space and the layout of the restaurants, but, on the other, open new windows of opportunity. We could, in fact, propose the click&collect models that we experimented with at the ESP center in Ravenna.  Maybe today we could count on the increased support and cooperation of the retailers, taking advantage of the warehouse space freed up by the hypermarkets after they were downsized, or we could use the space currently occupied by stores facing the mall for the pick-up of merchandise purchased online.  We could also provide safe, sanitized and well equipped co-working spaces  in order to support new remote working styles and the service industry’s need for greater flexibility.  

We have, therefore, a series of opportunities to redesign and replan the space which does not require us to rethink our business model 

What would you like to see the Italian government do at this point? 

The hope is that the government will provide significant tax credits and relief for a vast range of the retail businesses present in our shopping centers.  If the government is able to cover the lockdown period, we will then be able to take it from there, taking the steps needed to support tenants during the relaunch phase.  Up until now the number of lease terminations has been immaterial: the future will depend on the duration of the restrictions and the resources that the government will dedicate to supporting retail businesses.  We are ready to do our part  

Thanks and buon lavoro.