Retail Covid 19 Retail SEE Group


By Retail SEE Group / March 25, 2020

Nevena Kostic, Director of Retail SEE Group, shares her opinion on how Covid 19 Pendemic will shift the retail market once governemnt restrictions on shopping centers and retailers are lifted.

As you all know the Covid 19 pandemic has significantly impacted the retail market on a global scale. In many countries non essential retail stores and shopping centers have temporarily shut down, due to government orders to curb the spread of the virus. No one knows how long this shut down will last, it can be a matter of weeks or months and it will vary between countries.

But as the famous saying goes „this too shall pass“ and there will be a time when brick-and-mortar stores will re-open and it will be business as usual. Or will it?

Not so fast. Taking into account that the vaccine for Covid 19 is still being tested and won’t be on the market for another year, shopping center operators and retailers should use this time to prepare for a careful comeback.

As Erik Engstrand, CEO of SAFE Shopping Centers recently stated for Across Magazine: “Do not believe this will be over next week or month. This is a marathon. So plan for the long run.”


Although brick and motor stores will re-open eventually, this situation has highlighted the importance of e-commerce.

Last week, private equity firm VMG Partners and marketing firm Right Side Up hosted a webinar, titled “Shifting to Online Amid COVID-19,” to help companies optimize their ecommerce business to meet increased demand.

Matt Altman, Head of Amazon, stated during the webinar:

“Right now, as consumers increasingly use digital methods to prepare for a possible emergency, retailers need to ensure smooth, frictionless, and fast experiences on their e-commerce websites and mobile applications,” Smith said. “Meeting your customers’ needs and expectations at a time like this is imperative: it could either make or break your brand.”

South East Europe is lagging behind Western Europe in regards to e-commerce. The Corona Virus situation should push retailers in this region to get serious when it comes to developing e-commerce platforms and delivery services.

That being said, unfortunately some global retailers have paused their e-commerce services at this time in order to protect their employees within warehouses and distribution centers. This is a lesson for the future - strict safety measures will have to be implemented within these facilities, in order to fulfill online orders and turn this bad situation into an opportunity.

Retailers should also consider “order and pick up” services, a model that has already been implemented in the recent years by many retailers, such as IKEA and Delhaize (Maxi). This allows consumers to choose their products online and pick them up at the stores. This saves time for the consumers and gives them a chance to avoid crowds at the stores.


Anxiety around social gatherings won’t disappear immediately after the government restrictions are lifted. Shopping centers will need to reassure their future visitors that they are taking strict health and safety measures.

This includes regular disinfection of the premises, increasing natural and mechanical ventilation, humidity control, monitoring operations of their tenants - especially food operators and entertainment/leisure facilities.

Buildings, managed poorly, can spread disease. In order to help, SAFE Shopping Centers have issued a guide “COVID 19 and Considerations for Shopping Centers and Retail Spaces”, which can be downloaded in pdf HERE.

In the past years Green Building has increased in popularity in South East Europe, and many existing shopping centers made re-adjustments to their exterior and interior designs in order to become more energy efficient. Now with the Corona scare, existing shopping centers and future projects will need to reconsider how much natural outside air they are letting in. Buildings typically re-circulate some air, which has been shown to lead to higher risk of infection during outbreaks. Proper ventilation, filtration and humidity reduce the spread of pathogens like the new corona virus. This may change the way shopping centers are designed in the future.


The aftermath of the Covid 19 pandemic will impact the retail market for the years to come. It will give rise to the increase of e-commerce businesses, it will inspire the development of new retail technologies and make pickup and delivery services commonplace. Shopping centers will need to become safer, cleaner and healthier spaces, to protect the interests of shoppers. Future retail property design will incorporate more natural airflow, whilst still following green building trends, as real estate developments evolve in the face of one of the biggest socio economic challenges we have ever faced. The future is at our doorsteps, how will you adapt?


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