Woodfield, Gurnee Mills among malls closing due to coronavirus

Owner Simon Property Group closes its malls nationwide as department stores shutter and other retailers trim hours.

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Shoppers visit Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg on Thanksgiving Day in 2013. The mall is temporarily closing to combat the coronavirus.

Brian O’Mahoney/Sun-Times Media

With department stores going dark and other retailers trimming their hours due to the coronavirus, the nation’s largest owner of shopping malls, including four in the Chicago area, decided to close all properties starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group said its properties will remain closed through March 29 in an attempt to curtail the pandemic. In the Chicago area, Simon owns Gurnee Mills in Gurnee, Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora and Orland Square in Orland Park.

Late Wednesday, the owner of Westfield Old Orchard in Skokie said it was closing all but “essential” retail outlets.

The decisions come a day after leading department store chains Macy’s. Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue said they were closing all stores through March while continuing online sales. Department stores anchor most shopping malls and account for a large percentage of their business.

“The health and safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees is of paramount importance and we are taking this step to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said David Simon, chairman of Simon Property.

Other large malls in the area, such as Water Tower Place downtown, have responded to the crisis with reduced operating hours. Individual stores have curtailed hours on their own and customers are being advised to check those as well.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said retailers dealing in critical needs, such as grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies, will not be shut down. He has so far declined to order a general closure of other retailers even as he has banned gatherings of 50 or more and recommended social distancing.

Home Depot is an example of a store that deals in home repair and cleaning supplies. The company said it was temporarily limiting store hours, opening each day at the normal time but closing at 6 p.m.

Jewel-Osco said on Twitter that it was asking shoppers to give seniors priority from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Target, typically open until 11 p.m., said it’s now closing at 9 p.m. daily.

A spokesman for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association said it has not given any guidance to car dealers about staying open but may have a further announcement soon. “The dealerships are trying to figure out ways to stay safe while serving their communities,” said communications director Mark Bilek.

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