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Missouri malls reopen with new COVID-19 measures in place

"I really think it's good. To be honest with you, the malls have the room. They can operate safer than a lot of venues."

ST. LOUIS — A large, yellow "now open" sign waves in the wind on the drive up to St. Louis Premium Outlets. It's the kind of messages shoppers may have taken for granted before quarantine measures, but after nearly two months of stay-at-home orders the outdoor mall's parking lot is picking up traction.

"So far we have received a lot of positive feedback from both our retailers and our shoppers," mall manager Davis Bethel said.

The Chesterfield outlet mall's reopening with new signs reminding people to follow healthy habits. Arrows direct one-way traffic. Limited hours allow for more thorough cleaning.

Still some spaces, like the playground, remain closed.

"I really think it's good. To be honest with you, the malls have the room. They can operate safer than a lot of venues," Missouri Retail President David Overfelt said.

Overfelt says mall operators will likely watch how public spaces reopened overseas and take lessons from their experiences. In Wuhan, employees took temperatures one mall's main entrance, reminding people to keep their distance.

"There is a lot of experience worldwide," Overfelt said. "They know the systems that work. In fact, some of them may on property overseas. It is not a new thing for management, but it is a new thing for the public to become aware and participate with."

Mall managers say they won't take temperatures at the Chesterfield location, but owner Simon Property Group does have malls in Asia. 

On a March 30 earnings call, Simon leaders told shareholders they're reporting good numbers overseas as retailers take advantage of pent-up demand.

"We will have some challenges ahead of us, but we look forward to it," Bethel said.

Contact reporter Sara Machi on Facebook and Twitter.

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