10 tips for retail owners on how to 'COVID-proof' your store

The Government has allowed for reopening of stores since June 15th but until a vaccine is officially released, there is no post-COVID life, only one with it. With things constantly changing, Ian Wright, founder of Merchant Machine has compiled this guide with advice on running a store safely.

1. Rethinking store layouts

Interiors have to be redesigned to ensure safe distancing for shoppers and employees. The total floor space as well as possible pinch points, and busy areas have to be considered. Deliberate over limiting the amount of customer allowed in at once to ensure a safe environment and respect social distancing. 

Each store needs to decide what rules make sense for its location and put up signs so customers know what’s expected of them. 

2. Use signage and stickers as reminders 

Although social distancing has frequently been recommended since the early days of lockdown, maintaining it in practice can be easier said than done. Invest in signs like banners at shop fronts and throughout the store, signage by payment counters, as well as floor mats & markers to encourage shoppers to follow one-way systems and remain two metres apart from one another.

3. Embracing the queue

If there is not enough space to redesign, utilizing queue is an alternative measure. It would allow customers to practice social distancing as well as limiting entry into the store.

The use of queues can also build excitement and a sense of urgency as well as the community around your brand.

Another way to limit entry into a store, if you are able to use queues, is to set up a system which allows customers to book a time for them to shop. Not only would this protect the more vulnerable ones but it can also offer a more tailored shopping experience.

4. Focusing on customer service

Store staff’s role has never been so important - with us all wearing masks reading facial expression is very hard. Shopper issues need to be addressed with clear unambiguous communication with compassion.

5. Communicating with customers

Communicating outside of the store is just as important communication in-store.  Use social media, email marketing and even posters to let customers in the area know that the store is open.

Don’t come across too clinical or sterile as this could put consumers off - stick to what is true to the store’s voice.

6. Reach consumers at home

Allowing customers to buy online and pick up instore can reduce the number of people in the store at once. 

7. Revising your returns policy

Returns should be no-cash and no contact. Considering extending the period of the return policy to relieve crowding.

Contemplate having returns collected somewhere else, this would not only limit the amount of contact but also remove the need for trips to the store. 

8. Cleaning your store

During a pandemic, it doesn’t need to be said but maintaining your store’s hygiene is of utmost importance. All surface that comes into contact with people need to be cleaned and sanitized.

High contact areas such as door handles and bannister are at higher risk of being contaminated. It is recommended to use steam cleaning on fabrics and disposable cloths and household detergent on hard surfaces – but make sure the detergent selected is effective against viruses.

Stores that aren’t able to provide cleaning every hour might benefit from setting a specific time for shopping hours and the cleaning during those times.

9. Safe checkouts 

Self-Scan, Scan & Go and Self Checkout solutions help customers purchases with minimal physical interaction. Placing sanitising products at each Self Checkout will further encourage your customers to take safety measures to protect themselves and others. 

10. Protect Employees  

Staff should have a safe working environment. Provide employees with appropriate materials such as protective clothing, mask, sanitising products and other necessary items.

Remove the risk of checkout staff being in contact with customers shopping in the store by placing protective screens at checkout.

It’s important that staff employee do not attend work if they are unwell to do so. Facilitate temperature checks and train staff members on disease prevention awareness as this not only be beneficial for their wellbeing but be greatly appreciated by shoppers.

These adjustments may be costly and arduous to applicate, but they are a way to prepare for an uncertain future. It is not being pessimistic to bear in mind the possibility of a second wave.

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