Some of the safety precautions at Oakland Mall are social distancing and capacity limits in stores, and some shoppers have opted to utilize curbside pickup when available.

Some of the safety precautions at Oakland Mall are social distancing and capacity limits in stores, and some shoppers have opted to utilize curbside pickup when available.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Oakland Mall, Somerset Collection navigate holidays amid pandemic

By: Andy Kozlowski | Troy Times | Published December 22, 2020

 At Oakland Mall, the holiday shopping season has continued with safety precautions.

At Oakland Mall, the holiday shopping season has continued with safety precautions.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 The holiday shopping season is underway at Troy’s Oakland Mall.

The holiday shopping season is underway at Troy’s Oakland Mall.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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TROY — For the many businesses that call Troy home, being flexible and engaging customers in new ways has been key to operating during the pandemic. This is especially evident in the two major shopping complexes of Oakland Mall and Somerset Collection.

Jean Tallent, the head of marketing at Oakland Mall, said that COVID-19 has undeniably changed this year’s shopping season. More than 80 businesses can be found at Oakland Mall.

“Foot traffic is down, which was expected,” Tallent said in an email. “Many stores have been reporting good sales so far with Black Friday a couple weeks ago and with Christmas being around the corner.”

The mall has implemented hand-sanitizing stations at every entrance and throughout the mall. She noted that cleaning schedules have been increased to ensure that everything stays sanitized, and masks are required in order to enter the mall and the stores. Security staff has masks on hand to offer any customer who may have forgotten their own, and each store now has capacity limits, where guests are asked to wait in line outside, remaining 6 feet apart, when capacity is reached.

To streamline the shopping experience and mitigate inconvenience, some businesses are emphasizing alternative options for shoppers.

“Many stores are offering order online and pickup in store,” Tallent said. “Many are also offering curbside pickup if someone would rather not enter the store. There are designated spots in the parking lot for such stores offering that — they pull in, call the store to let them know they are there with their receipt, and then they will bring the packages out to you.”

Oakland Mall has tried to preserve some sense of normalcy this holiday season by retaining as many seasonal offerings as possible. Children can still share their holiday wish lists with Santa Claus, but now there are several ways to do so, including “Virtual Santa” where people receive a call from Santa while at home via the free videoconferencing app Zoom.

The mall also offers in-person meetings with Santa, but they no longer involve physical contact, and any family photos must be socially distanced. People also must wear masks while waiting to see Santa, although they can temporarily remove their masks while their pictures are being taken.

Oakland Mall also recently hosted “The Grouch” — another version of The Grinch — and those who wanted could take their pictures with The Grouch, Santa, or both. The mall also hosted a Pet Night with Santa Dec. 14.

Hours for events such as photo ops with Santa are available at oaklandmall.com/events, and reservations can be booked there as well.

“We do recommend reservations to see Santa, but walk-ins are welcome,” Tallent said. “Walk-ins will be scheduled in the next appointment spot that is open.”

At Somerset Collection, officials declined to divulge trends in foot traffic and sales. However, multiple services were noted for shopping safely there.

“Collection to the Car” is the name of a new service at Somerset Collection where 20 clearly identified parking spaces have been reserved at the main entrances on the north and south for dedicated curbside pickup.

Another form of contactless shopping is a service called “From Our Stores to Your Door,” where Somerset Collection will deliver merchandise from any of its merchants directly to shoppers’ doorsteps if they live within 60 miles of the mall. To schedule a delivery, call (248) 816-2087.

At the mall itself, a “holiday ambassador” can be found stationed at each entrance to welcome guests and help with their requests, which can include carrying bags back to their cars.

The Somerset Collection Studio at The Metropolitan Building has a new locker delivery system where one can call or text (248) 643-6088 to order anything from Somerset Collection and have it delivered to a temporarily assigned locker for them — another safe, sanitized way to access goods.

Nate Forbes, the managing partner at The Forbes Co., said Somerset Collection is leading the way for best practices at a shopping center.

“Somerset Collection has a strong longstanding commitment to setting the standard for a healthy, safe service to create a pleasant shopping environment, and this holiday we are doubling down on that effort,” Forbes said in a statement. “It is important that our community knows that Somerset Collection is here to help, however and wherever they feel comfortable shopping this holiday season.”

Glenn Lapin, Troy’s economic development specialist, commended the way businesses have adapted to the pandemic.

“Our local small businesses are the backbone of our community. Since the start of the pandemic, many of our local businesses have experienced tremendous challenges. However, so many of our outstanding Troy businesses have addressed these challenges head on, and have made innovative changes in order to overcome adversity and succeed,” Lapin said in an email. “With everyone banding together to support our local businesses this holiday season, our businesses can get a jumpstart toward a healthy and prosperous 2021.”

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