"I'm extremely excited. The thing I'm (most) excited about, are the prices! I was able to buy a lot more than what I thought," said Rakov, who was carrying several big bags filled with toys as she was leaving the Sunvalley Shopping Center in Concord.
She was one of the first to hit the stores on Friday's reopening of the mall.
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Joseph Berela, a manager at Zumiez, prepared online orders as he greeted customers. He says the staff is excited to get back to work. The tough part, however, may be tying to help shoppers feel comfortable and safe in this new normal.
"Getting readjusted to people coming in, and talking to them, and social distancing, and things like that," explained Berela.
Nathan Fackrell is the General Manager of the Sunvalley Shopping Center. He says the mall's six-page reopening plan first had to be approved by the Contra Costa County Health Department, which includes detailed instructions on how to meet state and county guidelines regarding social distancing measures and the like.
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He says preparations have been underway for months.
"We are happy to see the foot traffic that we have today. It looked really good for us as far as the return of customers back to the shopping center," Fackrell said.
The retail industry has taken a huge hit due to the shutdown. Yet, unlike other retailers, Fackrell says Sunvalley is poised for strong come back, even with increased online competition.
He says the mall has a 90 percent occupancy rate with more stores coming, plus strong customer loyalty. The reopening will also send hundreds of employees back to work, which can reach to about 1,600 employees during the peak of the holiday season.
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However, the mall is currently only allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity, which means roughly only 2,500 people will be also inside.
But as the holiday shopping season approaches, they expect strong sales.
"I think we are going to see the shopping center start to move forward as far as revenue goes, and increase. And as things get better with the pandemic, we are just going to see a big turn round," Fackrell said.
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