The health, safety and wellbeing of all our stakeholders is our utmost priority and we continue to monitor and act according to direction provided by the federal, provincial and municipal governments to control the spread of COVID-19.
RioCan is well positioned to navigate this challenging time, as our pre-eminent major market portfolio and solid balance sheet helps mitigate the impact of economic volatility. Desirable locations and a necessity-based and service oriented tenant mix, comprised largely of National retailers provide inherent income stability, which, combined with the strength of our experienced leadership team, have made us successful for 26 years. These same factors will see us through this unprecedented crisis and fuel growth long into the future.
RioCan provided an update on April 21, 2020 on its liquidity position, operations, developments, 2020 same property net operating income guidance, and its Annual and Special Meeting of unitholders. The Company published its Q1 2020 earnings on Tuesday, May 5th.
We are pleased to announce that per recent government announcements regarding the gradual reopening of the Canadian economy, RioCan will reopen properties in selected territories beginning with Quebec and Manitoba starting May 4, 2020.
Our shopping centres are community pillars and have been critical to delivering essential services throughout the pandemic. For those properties that were mandated to partially or fully close due to public health orders, we look forward to reopening them as we receive official consent and guidance on the necessary restrictions from the appropriate authorities.
RioCan has implemented several protocols to protect our employees, tenants, guests, and our business as our properties reopen. This is still a highly dynamic situation and we continue to monitor direction from government and public health authorities and will implement appropriate actions and provide updates as they become available.
Details regarding RioCan’s phased reopening plans are as follows:
- Provincial and territorial governments are moving at their own pace to safely restore economic activity within their jurisdictions, while protecting the health of Canadians
- Several of these plans were recently announced, including permission to reopen shopping centres in Manitoba and Quebec starting Monday, May 4th, 2020
- The plans are phased in nature and based on a range of public health criteria and common principles for restarting the economy
- RioCan has diligently prepared by setting enhanced safety protocols that follow the guidance of provincial and municipal health authorities
- We are here to support our tenants and employees through the process of reopening, and ensuring they have the information required to reopen safely, in compliance with public health measures
- For the foreseeable future, our tenants will establish and adhere to a range of heightened health and safety protocols such as full employee compliance with all mandated sanitation, physical distancing and self-screening measures to name a few
We look forward to welcoming our guests back as we reopen properties in selected territories as approved by our provincial and municipal governments and public health authorities.
It is expected that reopening shopping centres will continue to occur gradually over a transition period. Some businesses may be allowed to open before others, and some may choose to adjust their operating hours. We encourage guests to check shopping centres’ websites and social channels or contact retailers directly for up-to-date information on hours of operation.
RioCan has diligently prepared to safeguard our guests by implementing enhanced safety protocols that follow the guidance of our provincial and municipal health authorities. Similar to the precautions we put in place prior to closure, we are taking appropriate steps to protect and support our guests, tenants and employees as we reopen. These include:
- Retailers have been provided flexibility with respect to adjusting their operating hours
- Prominent signage and markers to enforce respectful physical distancing in all spaces
- Increased cleaning of frequent touchpoints, such as entrance door handles, and washroom fixtures
- Increased number of hand sanitizer units
- Common seating areas such as food court tables and chairs have been removed or access has been restricted
- Certain shopping centre services, such as stroller rental, typically provided by our Guest Services teams have been eliminated
RioCan also announced on May 4, 2020 its plans to enhance the shopping experience at its centres across Canada by launching RioCan Curbside Collect™ (“Curbside Collect”), a safe and convenient way for retail tenants and consumers to transact as businesses re-open. Curbside Collect is a RioCan initiative designed to respond to the evolving retail landscape. It will offer designated areas for customers to easily access their pre-ordered items from participating stores at applicable RioCan centres in a contactless way. The program is intended to assist businesses to safely serve returning customers as the various levels of government begin to ease restrictions on businesses that were mandated to close during the COVID-19 outbreak. Longer term, Curbside Collect is expected to make it easier for merchants and shoppers to coordinate transactions on a regular basis, mitigate the cost of “last mile” logistics for RioCan tenants and drive consumer traffic and repeat visits.
- We recognize the unexpected financial challenges our tenants may be experiencing due to business slowdown and interruption. As a result, we have adapted our business practices in real-time to responsibly balance our tenants’ needs with the well-being of all our constituents, in the near and long term
- From the outset, we knew we needed to protect the smaller independent tenants who are the backbone of the economy. RioCan subsequently offered those qualifying independent commercial tenants who have requested rent relief, an automatic 60-day, interest-free rent deferral, payable in the subsequent 12 months
- The recently announced Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (CECRA) appears to be designed to provide further relief to independent retailers. As a responsible Canadian landlord and industry leader, we believe it is incumbent upon us to actively consider participating. Upon receipt of additional program details from the federal and provincial governments, we will continue our due diligence to determine the eligibility of our various properties, and whether the program is in the best interests of our business and tenants
RioCan Living Residential Rental Buildings:
- The professional third party property management teams that RioCan has engaged for our RioCan Living residential rental portfolio have implemented a number of initiatives to ensure the health, safety and security of employees and residential tenants including:
- Increased cleaning intensity and frequency
- Cancellation or postponement of all tenant gatherings and closure of amenity spaces
- Adjustments to leasing tour strategies, including enhanced virtual tour capability
RioCan Development Projects:
- The vast majority of RioCan’s construction projects qualify as essential projects under provincial governments’ regulations and remain underway, albeit at a slower pace
- RioCan continues to monitor development progress daily, ensure worker safety and accommodate labour limitations, and will make necessary adjustments as the circumstances arising from COVID-19 develop
- The health and safety of our people is paramount, and for the time being, per public health direction, the work from home mandate for all RioCan employees whose duties can be fulfilled remotely, along with restrictions on all business travel and in-person interaction, remain in effect until employees are notified otherwise, even as certain sites begin to reopen
- We have facilitated access to RioCan’s Employee Assistance Program to help employees manage any anxiety and stress they may be experiencing
- We provide frequent communication from the leadership team through a number of channels including email updates, FAQs and conference calls that:
- Provide real-time information and updates regarding protocols
- Keep RioCan employees connected to the business and each other, by providing insight into how RioCan is supporting tenants, employees, our communities and our business through the crisis
- While we cannot confirm when we will return to work in our headquarters and other offices, we can say that the process will be gradual, flexible, and in accordance with public health guidelines. We will adjust our workplaces as needed to comply with physical distancing, hygiene, and sanitization measures
As the COVID-19 situation evolves, RioCan will continue to monitor direction from the World Health Organization, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and federal, provincial and municipal governments, and we remain committed to implementing appropriate actions and providing updates to all stakeholders, guests, tenants and employees as they become available.