Extra security guards, police to patrol shopping centres

Major shopping centres will be patrolled by swarms of security guards this weekend on a mission to enforce social distancing regulations.

It comes as more stores begin to open their doors as coronavirus restrictions are eased. Research by one shopping centre owner found retail therapy was the third thing on people’s list of activities they wanted to get back into.

Vicinity Centres said it had deployed extra staff across its malls which include the country’s busiest, Chadstone in Melbourne.

The firm also operates Sydney’s grand Queen Victoria Building, Emporium Melbourne and DFO outlets nationwide.

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“We have a range of stringent and protective measures in place to ensure everyone follows physical distancing guidelines and health and hygiene measures in our centres,” chief executive officer Grant Kelley told The Age.

The guards will ask shoppers to remain 1.5 metres apart and will disperse crowds.

In Victoria, security guards will be joined by protective service police officers whose duties normally include patrolling railway stations.

It’s expected to be a big weekend for retail with department store Myer, which closed all its branches in March, now fully open once again.

Scentre Group, which operates Westfield branded shopping centres, said last weekend footfall in its locations had reached 80 per cent of the level seen last May.

Four out of five shops are now open in its shopping centres.

“Over the past three weekends in May, more customers have felt more confident to visit their local Westfield centre,” said Scentre Group’s director of customer experience, Phil McAveety.

He added there were now “overt and practical safety and hygiene measures,” including signage, public announcements, availability of hand sanitiser and more frequent cleaning in-centre.

“Customers have told us they feel reassured by the visible and practical safety measures in place at our centres.”

Research undertaken by Scentre Group showed the top three things people wanted to do as restrictions eased was to go out for a meal, spend time with loved ones and go shopping.

The top three purchases customers want to make in person were winter fashion, homewares and shoes.

“Customers know physical distancing will be with us for some time.

“They are prepared to queue and adjust as the economic recovery starts to take place because they value the convenience and interaction of an in-store experience,” Mr McAveety said.

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