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Foxwoods mall introduces virtual shopping service

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Mashantucket — Shopping online boring you? Uneasy about traipsing through a mall in the age of coronavirus?

Make an appointment with a virtual shopper.

Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods launched a “concierge” virtual shopper service last month, enabling customers to take to FaceTime or Skype, say, to remotely communicate with a mall employee who can do their shopping for them — and with them. Customers can go online, fill out an order and schedule a time to go shopping from … well … anywhere.

Partially a response to the coronavirus pandemic, it's a way for Tanger outlets to stay ahead of the competition, said Erin Grenier, assistant manager of the 70-store indoor mall linking Foxwoods Resort Casino’s Grand Pequot and Fox towers.

“As more shoppers go digital, and people are working from home, surfing for deals, it’s important to think outside the box,” she said.

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, of Greensboro, N.C., which owns the Foxwoods mall, has introduced the virtual shopper service at all 39 of its outlet centers in the U.S. and Canada.

The service is an upgrade of the personal shopping service Tanger at Foxwoods previously offered. That involved online ordering of merchandise pictured on the mall's website, but no interaction with an onsite concierge who can move from store to store, if necessary, Grenier said.

“Most of our stores are apparel, and this gives the customer a chance to see the quality of the material, see how it moves,” she said. “The virtual shopper can hold up a purse and show the customer all its elements, what the pockets are like and so on.”

If the outlets at Foxwoods don’t have what a customer’s looking for, another Tanger location might. Purchases can be shipped or picked up at Foxwoods.

Grenier said the new service has been extremely popular at some Tanger centers and that if it takes off at the Foxwoods outlets, the mall may have to hire some additional help.

The Foxwoods mall closed when the casino shut down in mid-March as the coronavirus was threatening. Stores gradually began reopening June 1. About 90 percent of the mall tenants now are open, Grenier said, with several new stores expected to fill vacancies by the end of August. Steven Madden, a shoe store, has permanently closed, and two other outlets, G. Bass & Co. and Wilsons Leather, will liquidate by the end of the year, she said.

Brooks Brothers, one of the Foxwoods mall’s bigger name-brand stores, remains closed, the chain's owners having declared bankruptcy last week.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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