Shopping centers preparing for bigger blow than last year

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A sign asking customers to please wear a mask in Tallinn's Viru Keskus shopping center. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Starting Thursday, shopping centers will go under strict restrictions and while some services and storeslike pet stores, construction stores and barbers are allowed to remain open, some may decide against it as drive-ins and takeaway services do not bring much help.

As of this week's restrictions, stores must be closed starting Thursday, March 11. The restriction does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies, stores that sell aid equipment and medical devices, the sales points of telecommunications enterprises, optical stores, pet stores and filling stations, however.

The stores that will remain open also have to take into account the requirement that the occupancy of their space cannot exceed 25 percent, and the 2+2 movement restriction.

According to Gertti Kogermann, director of the Viru Keskus shopping center, only stores on the first floor of the center will remain open as they contain businesses that restrictions do not strictly apply to. "We will close all higher floors and leave the first floor partly open. There are 20 eating establishments in our house and they are on different floors. Takeaway sales for catering establishments are not of use to most and many places will remain closed with no takeaway," Kogermann said.

Compared to last spring's emergency situation, the closures in 2021 will be much more rough to the center and its occupants. "The expectation was that state support measures would be at the level they were last year. Wage support in particular, but there were expectations as reserves are already spent and the crisis has gone on for too long," Kogermann noted.

Compared to last year's emergency situation, construction stores will also have to close their doors now.

Bauhof marketing director Maarja-Liis Toomik said the stores are currently preparing for the new restrictions. "We cannot allow a single client to the indoor space. We are preparing everything we can do outdoors or by drive-in methods. We are also dealing with opening outdoor area near the stores, meaning we could sell gardening supplies and other goods in outdoor conditions," she said.

Sales numbers will go down among regular customers in particular as large-scale customers have used the e-store and pre-ordering for quite some time. Since gardening plays a major role in Bauhof stores, a desperate sale of flowers already took place on Tuesday as the plants would otherwise die inside the store building or out in the cold.

Large gardening centers will also have to figure out how plants can be sold outdoors. Head of the Nurmiko gardening center, Jaak Ungerson, said the Easter season is also in danger.

"Our Easter season is now in danger. Our Nurmiko gardens work on pre-orders, we have customers who have already placed orders for what they want and we will grow for that order. Just now, daffodils, hyacinths and also tulips are starting to get ready. For Easter. If construction and gardening stores now close, a certain part of wares will take a hit," Ungerson said.

The garden itself would not take too hard a blow however, as Nurmiko's main customers are grocery stores who also sell flowers, Ungerson added. He noted that the recent restriction came at a bad time for gardening centers as hobbyists are just starting to think about the spring season.

President Kersti Kaljulaid's visit to a Nurmiko gardening center in 2020. Source: ERR

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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