Few sectors have borne the financial brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic more than retail. In many countries, the light is beginning to show at the end of a very dark tunnel as stores prepare to reopen again. These cautious first steps into an unknown territory of socially distant stores, with plexiglass, electronic occupancy counters, and bemasked sales associates will be a learning experience for everyone involved. To help you along the road we’ve four suggestions for areas to focus on.
1. Make safety and sanitation a priority
In-store hygiene and cleanliness will be more important than ever over the coming months. The following tips should go some way towards minimizing infection risks:
• Offer hand sanitizing stations in several locations on your shop floor.
• Equip your staff with sanitizing sprays, cloths, or disposable wipes.
• Install pick-up and drop-off stations to limit hand-to-hand passing of goods.
• Choose a staff member to lead efforts around hygiene control so sanitizers are replenished, and scheduled cleaning is completed.
2. Adapt to the new shopping experience
Depending on the size of your store, you’ll need to implement varying degrees of changes to the layout of your store. The below are features to consider implementing:
• One-way system to minimize shopper interaction.
• Plexiglass barriers in front of your checkout areas.
• Remove unnecessary features such as plants or advertising boards.
• Take the term “window shopping” to a whole new level with QR codes directing to your online store printed next to items on your store windows
Failing that: reimagine your store
If these changes are impractical for your business, consider reimagining what your store could be. Here are two options:
• A sensory online store: The feel of merino wool, or the hints of patchouli in the latest perfume are impossible to replicate online. By allowing customers access to the store, with an allotted time to browse, they can safely experience the features of a product which often result in a sale. With a limited stock on display, you can implementendless aislesto facilitate online ordering at the end of their journey.
• A mini fulfillment center: If opening the doors is not an option, consider using your space as a place to pick and pack orders made over the phone, online, or via email. Notify shoppers when their order is ready and give them a collection time.
Large department stores like de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands, are leading the way in the implementation of safe shopping practices. Smaller spaces can still find ways to innovate though. The presence of a physical store in a location has been shown toincrease traffic to a retailer’s website by 37%. By keeping your store alive and operating in any capacity you should be able to alleviate some of the impact with increased online sales.
3. Protect your customers
Despite all of the measures mentioned above, controlling the movement of your loyal shoppers while providing an excellent experience will present challenges. At times it may be difficult but patience and some gentle encouragement should help.
• Signage will play an important role. Use floor markings for one-way systems, reminders of the two meter recommend distance, and arrows towards sanitization stations, to leave as little room for confusion as possible.
• Manage occupancy levels withelectronic displaysat entrances which count shoppers and provide a stop go system for those waiting in line. If these are beyond your budget, an old fashionedtally counterwill do.
• Encourage, or only accept,card paymentsor contactless for smaller purchasers. Visa have created a series of stickers and signage which should prove useful.
4. Be empathetic to your frontline
Knowledgeable, personable, expert staff are the lifeblood of a thriving retail business. And now, they’re more important than ever. Show your appreciation by making this difficult situation as stress free as possible for them.
• Equip them with radio headsets andmPOS terminalsto minimize movement around the store.
• Roster your employees so the same staff are working together as much as possible to limit exposure.
• Create zones and assign one staff member to each to limit their interactions with each other.
• Allocate sufficient change over time between shifts for staff members to properly disinfect their areas before another staff member starts.
Moving forward together
The last few months have been traumatic and strange. The next few months will see our reemergence with trepidation. Your shoppers visit your store for the experience, to interact with your staff and your products. All of this can still be possible, while still operating in a manner conscious of the crisis. As always, we’re here to help our merchants in any way we can.
If you’d like more information or further reading to guide you through this time, our COVID-19 page is a good place to start.