Malls will be open, and other things you need to know before you go shopping on P.E.I. Friday

Islanders can expect lots of Plexiglas and more signs with reminders of the importance of physical distancing when some stores reopen on May 22.

Retail stores, malls reopen as province enters Phase 2 of easing of public health restrictions

Wayne Hambly says the store will still be allowing people to try out furniture, but staff will put a disposable cover over it first. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

Plexiglas, signage and new rules await Islanders when they return to some retail outlets that open Friday as the province enters into Phase 2 of its easing of restrictions brought in due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, May 22, retail shops will be permitted to open, and in advance of that, some are taking steps to make sure that the return to the new normal is done as safely as possible. 

Changes will be noticeable when the Charlottetown Mall, Confederation Court Mall and the County Fair Mall in Summerside reopen on Friday.

At the Charlottetown Mall, customers will find prominent signage stressing the importance of physical distancing. Common seating areas, like the food court tables, have been removed or restricted and all events and programming at the mall have been cancelled until further notice, a spokesperson for the mall said in an email to CBC News.

As of right now, 22 retailers in the Charlottetown Mall are confirmed to reopen, the spokesperson said.

PPE available to customers

Most stores at the County Fair Mall in Summerside plan to open their doors Friday said Peter Kafka, head of the leasing department for Strathallen Property Management Inc., the company that owns the mall.

Shoppers can expect to see similar signs stressing physical distancing as well as team of employees assigned to clean high-traffic areas. 

"If our customers feel that they need personal protective equipment to shop safely in our malls we'll provide these items in our administration office free of charge," said Kafka. 

The mall has also provided individual stores with signs and is helping stores that don't have a storefront entrance to develop a curbside pick-up program, he said.

'Like a grand opening'

Stores of all sizes are making adjustments, with signage and extra cleaning.

Hambly's has put arrows on the floor to help with traffic flow throughout the store, limiting the risk of customers bumping into each other. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

"We're all pretty excited about it. It's like a grand opening for us in a lot of ways," said Wayne Hambly of Hambly's Brandsource Home Furnishings and P.E.I. Home and RV Centre.

The first thing customers will see when they walk up to the store is signage related to COVID-19. And once inside, there are more signs directing them which way to walk through the store. 

"We are setting up with arrows on the floor similar to other stores, the traffic pattern. So people aren't meeting each other," said Hambly. "We'll have separate entrances, separate exits wherever we can." 

And Plexiglas has been installed anywhere customers interact with staff. Being a store where customers want to try out the furniture before purchasing, meant Hambly's had to take an extra step to keep customers and staff safe.

"We even have disposable covers for folks who want to try out a sofa or sit on a recliner or lay on a mattress," he said. "We put these disposable covers down first and then they just go in the garbage when they're done with it." 

Staff will be keeping their distance, and showcasing appliances to the clients, rather than letting the clients touch them. 

"We'll be opening and closing the refrigerator doors ourselves rather than having the customers opening and closing them or the oven doors or that sort of thing," he said. 

And in order to help out with contact tracing, the store will be keeping a log book of who has come into the store. 

"In the case of the RVs the log book would indicate the name, the number and the RVs that they had seen," he said. "In our furniture store of course, it would be a similar situation where we would record the customers and have that information available in the event that there ever had to be some followup by the health officials."

Going in to the outdoors store

Sporting Intentions, an outdoor store in Charlottetown, is looking forward to welcoming their customers inside again after several months of just offering curbside pickup. 

Sporting Intentions in Charlottetown has placed stickers on the floor, two metres apart, to remind customers to keep an appropriate physical distance. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

But to start, there will be a limit to how many people can be inside the store. 

"We're gonna start with about five customers and I think that is a conservative number. There's lots of space in here and hopefully we'll see how that goes and if we can take it up to eight or 10 we will," said Wes Slauenwhite, general manager of the store.

When customers go into the store, they will notice hand sanitizing stations in several locations, and signs asking customers to talk to staff before touching or trying on products. The store will have at least one staff person carrying the necessary cleaning products, travelling around the store and sanitizing in areas of heavy customer traffic. 

"It's going to be a challenge because if you have, you know, four or five customers in the store, you know to follow every move they make will be challenging, but we'll do our best to ensure that it's safe," said Slauenwhite. 

And when customers try on items, Slauenwhite said fitting rooms will be sanitized by staff in between each use. 

"If a customer tries something on and doesn't purchase it … then we have a separate area where we're gonna take those garments and steam clean them," he said. 

Those pieces of clothing will be put aside overnight and then put back on display the next day. 

Wes Slauenwhite, general manager of Sporting Intentions, says fitting rooms will be sanitized in between customers, and any clothing not bought will be steam cleaned before being put back on display. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

The store has also put stickers on the floor to remind customers of physical distancing, and the store has moved some items further apart to accommodate distancing between customers. 

They've installed Plexiglas at the checkouts, between staff and customers, and there's also a barrier between each checkout, to keep staff protected from each other. But, Slauenwhite said he doesn't expect physical distancing among staff and customers will be an issue when they reopen. 

"Luckily with a kayak you know it's a 12- to 16-foot-long creature and you can easily kind of walk around it and maintain your distance," he said. 

"There's lots of room for us to remain separated from customers."

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