Ready, set, go.
As retailers across the country prepare to reopen stores amid the relaxing of COVID-19 regulations, they’re now faced with a new set of challenges — keeping workers and customers safe.
Before setting a plan in place, it’s advisable to check with local and state health authorities for location-specific guidelines. And, make sure all employees are advised of any policies instituted during staff meetings or on in-store signage.
Here, FN has some tips to make getting back to business both safe and easy.
Open for Business
Before stores get up and running, it’s essential to alert customers they have officially reopened. Here, retailers can post details on social media or send email blasts to customers. They can also go the print route with ads in local papers. To lure shoppers, discounts or reward programs can be offered with these alerts. Retailers can also limit the number of shoppers at a given time to promote safe distancing.
After stores have been shuttered for weeks, they need to be properly cleaned, from sanitizing rest rooms to cash registers. While smaller independents can roll up their sleeves along with employees to do the job, those with a bigger footprint may require a professional cleaning service. For disinfection of high-touch surfaces such as tables, handles, desks, keyboards, and sinks, check CDC guidelines or manufacturers’ instructions.
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Personal Protective Equipment
Masks are essential for workers, with many states recommending shoppers also wear them. There are a range of masks from surgical versions cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that provides the wearer protection against sprays of bodily fluids to homemade versions that include bandanas and scarves. While the latter may not be as effective as professional masks, they provide sufficient protection according to the CDC. For stores that want to take protection up a notch, disposable masks can be provided to shoppers at entry.
Employees are advised to wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use a store-bought hand sanitizer after touching foreign surfaces. However, for employees that routinely handle merchandise and money as part of their jobs, gloves are advised. Stores can also make hand sanitizer available to shoppers to ensure further safety.
For stores maintaining a six-foot distancing policy, personal fitting services may be restricted. Instead, retailers can request customers call in orders by phone or online (BOPIS) for pick up curbside. Or, for customers who unexpectedly stop in, they can browse the selection, place their order with the cashier, then wait for a sales associate to locate the item. If shoes are tried on but not purchased, retailers have the option of setting them aside in the stock room for several days to ensure against virus transfer.
Retailers don’t have to operate e-commerce sites to ship footwear to customers. Orders can be taken by phone, then shipped via services such as FedEx and UPS. Or, stores can offer their own delivery service. Sales associates can deliver orders to customers’ homes by car within a designated area. These services can be offered free-of-charge or determined by the amount of sale.
To avoid the exchange of money or the handling of credit cards by store associates, purchases can be charged by phone prior to pick-up, or customer credit card information can be taken verbally in store. In addition, there are several emerging technologies that can aid retailers in offering contactless checkout.