With his family staying isolated on Peaks Island, John Mucciarone decided it was time to upgrade the household TV set – a 20-inch computer monitor.

He headed to Best Buy at The Maine Mall Wednesday morning and walked out with a new 50-inch set.

Mucciarone didn’t exactly have to fight the crowds – he was one of just a handful of shoppers in the store, which was open ahead of the official mall opening at noon. The number of store workers seemed to slightly outnumber consumers.

With coronavirus turning America into a nation of shut-ins, the mall has set reduced hours of noon to 7 p.m., lopping off three hours from the beginning of the day and two at the end, Monday through Saturday. Sunday hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Even within those hours, however, the sprinkling of shoppers strolling down mostly empty hallways didn’t have a lot of choices. More than half the stores have closed, posting notices on doors saying they didn’t want to expose customers or employees to possible contamination.

Most of the stores that closed are the smaller stores in the mall, such as clothing retailers and toy stores. But some large retailers have shuttered, too, including the Apple store and Macy’s, one of the mall’s anchor stores. Most of the notices said the closings are for an indeterminate time, while others stated that the stores should be reopening at the end of March or in early April.


Wednesday afternoon, Simon Properties announced that it will close all its retail properties, including shopping malls, starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday until March 29. Simon Properties is one of the biggest competitors of Brookfield Properties, which owns The Maine Mall.

The dates for reopening are likely to be fluid, however. If the federal government rushes stimulus checks to the public, many retailers are likely to reopen in an effort to capture some of that spending.

In the meantime, however, stores are adjusting hours or shutting altogether. Some larger retailers, such as Target, are going to institute special shopping times, restricting the stores to the elderly or others at high risk of contracting diseases for an hour each Wednesday at opening time.

Target and Home Depot also announced that they will be closing earlier – Target at 9 p.m. and Home Depot at 6 p.m. – to allow for more cleaning time and restocking.

Retailers are aware that what they do, or don’t do, in response to the pandemic can be critical. Video game seller GameStop, for instance, drew ire online for reinstalling demo stations after it initially ordered them removed in an effort to limit the spread of the virus. Workers have also claimed that they were asked to buy their own cleaning supplies for the stores.

A popular approach seems to be taking steps to limit the number of in-store shoppers. Best Buy, for instance, is hoping to cap the number of shoppers in the store at 15 at a time, starting next week. It will cut store hours to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., starting Monday, and emphasize curbside pickup by customers who order online rather than shopping in the store.


Each customer will be escorted through the store by a Best Buy employee, and the customer will not be allowed to touch anything, according to the company.

As the spread of the virus progresses, major retailers are updating their hours and in-store policies regularly. Customers are advised to check a retailer’s website for the latest information before visiting one of its stores.

The limitations on in-person shopping were on Dylan Nickerson’s mind Wednesday.

Nickerson, who lives in Westbrook, had headed out in the morning to buy a stand mixer, a reflection of the fact that he and his wife are cooking more at home these days.

He also stopped by Best Buy to check out video games, looking for diversions during those long hours at home.

“I feel like stores like this won’t be open for long,” Nickerson said.

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