10 Things You'll Never See in Malls Again After Coronavirus

Busy food courts, makeup samples, and window shopping could disappear amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Going to the mall has never really been just about checking things off your shopping list. It's been a place for hanging out with friends, trying on makeup and clothes for inspiration, socializing over a snack, and sometimes just window shopping to pass the time. But like nearly all venues where people gather, malls will never be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic. We talked to retail experts for their takes on the ways malls will change in the age of coronavirus. Prepare to say goodbye to some of your favorite features! And for other retail changes to expect, here are 7 Things You Won't See at Retail Stores Ever Again After Coronavirus.

No more cash transactions

close up of person using their phone to pay

Yes, cash was once king, but these days, many people view it as a glowing green coronavirus risk. So look for retailers and mall amenities to shift away from cash more and more going forward.

"Expect mall retailers to strongly encourage cashless transactions, through their own apps or payment platforms like Apple Pay, to further minimize risk of transmissions," says Toopan Bagchi, senior advisor at the retail consulting firm The Navio Group. "These changes will likely remain for a year or more until a vaccine is available, though many consumers are expected to increase their use of curbside pickup and contactless payment permanently." And to learn more about why stores are going paperless, find out how This One Item You Touch Every Day Puts You Most at Risk of Coronavirus.

No more loose dressing room policies

young man looking at shirt in dressing room mirror and smiling

To reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, mall stores will change their policies for dressing room use, and safeguard items brought in for try-on. "Some stores, such as Macy's and Nordstrom, will reopen dressing rooms, but they will keep some closed to help with distancing, clean them after each use, and wait before restocking products," Bagchi notes. "Others will follow their lead."

According to fashion brand consultant Tamiko White, "stores that make it a policy to remove merchandise from the floor for 24 to 72 hours once it's been tried on will be mindful of their revolving merchandise assortment and emphasize to sales associates the importance of closing sales." In other words, you might want to consider how serious you are about a particular item before you commit to trying it on—or the salesperson might pressure you to buy it.

No more makeup samples

close up of makeup samples at a store

Beauty counters at mall-anchoring department stores and other cosmetics shops like Sephora have long offered both scheduled and walkup makeup applications and other sampling opportunities for decades. But those practices will have to change.

"For sanitary reasons and to help customers feel more secure, stores will be using paper sketches to demonstrate makeup for customers," says White. "Expect to be serviced by masked and gloved attendants instead of self-service; sampling products and handling boxes increases the risk of cross-contamination." And to learn more about how your beauty experience will be altered, check out these 7 Things You'll Never See at Your Hair Salon Ever Again.

No more perfume sprayers

close up of woman spraying perfume on her arm

Just like makeup samples, fragrance sampling will likely not survive the COVID-19 pandemic. But that's not all bad news: "The in-your-face perfume sprayers will be a thing of the past," White says.

No more mask-free entry

white man and woman wearing face masks going up a mall escalator

When malls reopen, you'll see evidence of the pandemic the second you approach those automatic doors. "For starters, mall staff should be distributing and encouraging the use of face masks and hand sanitizer," Bagchi says. And to make sure you're getting the most out of your face mask, discover 7 Things You Should Never Be Doing With Your Face Mask.

No more walking anywhere you please

close up of sign on the floor saying keep a social distance

You'll also see plenty of measures put into place to ensure social distancing through guided crowd flow. Bagchi expects staff will be "deploying crowd-control measures to ensure physical distancing," which includes "designating doors as enter- or exit-only, signage to encourage traffic flow in certain directions, and barriers with appropriately spaced markers to create lines where crowding may occur."

No more afternoons at the food court

empty mall food court

Sorry, teens looking for an afternoon out of the house sampling Auntie Anne's and Panda Express. Crowd control will likely affect the food court, too. "Squatting at the food court won't lend to social distancing or consistent disinfecting," White says. "Seating may be limited to 30 minutes so staff can disinfect tables or [they'll] be removed altogether." And for a look back at how things once were, check out these 15 Vintage Shopping Mall Photos That'll Make You Nostalgic.

No more Black Friday throngs

crowded mall on black friday

A tightly packed line that snakes around and around has historically been a marker of retailers' Black Friday success—but don't expect to see those notorious scenes going forward. "Black Friday is going to look very different this year," notes Trae Bodge, a smart shopping expert at True Trae. "With social distancing in effect, stores are going to have to figure out ways to limit the number of consumers allowed in store at any given time."

Bodge suspects Black Friday might evolve using some of the social-distancing tactics we have already seen in the early phases of reopening. "My guess is that we will see some combination of what stores have been dabbling in recently, including a greatly reduced maximum capacity, waiting lines outside the stores, and reservations," she says.

No more kids' activities

slide and ball pit

Malls have steadily worked to retain in-person shoppers otherwise lost to online shopping, and amid those efforts, they have increasingly added an array of diversions for kids. But the pandemic may spell the end of those—or at least a substantial scaling back as malls work to mitigate risk.

"In recent years, we've seen an influx of elaborate kids' activities in malls, like climbing walls, ball pits, and ropes courses," Bodge says. "As long as the pandemic is around, I don't expect that we'll see these in operation. Because these activities involve so many common surfaces, it will be very difficult to ensure the safety of each child." And for more experiences your children will sadly miss out on, learn 7 Things Your Kids Will Never Get to Do Again After the Coronavirus.

No more browsing for browsing's sake

group of young friends carrying bags and pointing at a window at the mall

Many shoppers have long enjoyed going to the mall for its own sake—to browse, window shop, pass time, get fashion inspiration, and try on outfits with friends. But expect that pastime to fade in the wake of the coronavirus.

"Due to the pandemic, my guess is that shoppers will be more likely to go to the mall with a plan, by conducting research ahead of time and creating a shopping list at home," Bodge says. "I would suggest that if you have specific items in mind, set deal alerts on a site like Slickdeals.net. By doing this, you can be alerted to when items you need go on sale, and determine when it makes sense to venture out to purchase those items."

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Alesandra Dubin
Alesandra Dubin is a lifestyle editor and writer based in Los Angeles. Read more
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