Tips for Retail Stores Reopening
In an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19, most retail stores have been forced to temporarily close their locations for more than two months. Now, though, as stay-at-home orders are relaxed, the country cautiously reopens.
Americans are ready to get back to work. But many retail owners are rightfully wondering how to open up their store in such a way that prioritizes the health and safety of both employees and shoppers.
Curious what you should do to start safely reopening your retail store? Here at Nextdoor we’ll discuss everything you need to know.
Check with Local Government
How and when you reopen is controlled by the local government. Before you begin, you’ll need to check with them. Only after you’ve received the greenlight can you then start to open.
To find everything you need to know, visit your local government’s webpage or give them a call. Most will have a variety of resources available to you. By conducting your research, you’ll ensure that you’re taking all precautions to keep your customers protected.
Implement Safety Measures
You won’t be able to legally reopen until you’ve installed the proper safety measures and procedures to protect both your shoppers and employees. By establishing social distancing practices and other daily habits, your team can help reduce the risk of exposure to the virus.
To begin, you should check with your state and local governments to see what standards are required to safely reopen. Per the SHRM:
“These orders will contain a variety of employee-specific requirements that will run the gamut from donning [personal protective equipment such as] face masks and gloves, to social-distancing requirements, number of employees in a store at any one time based on the store's physical layout, prohibition on how many employees can congregate in certain areas, [a] ban on handshaking, etc.”
From there, you’ll need to develop, implement, and maintain a safety plan. Although this should be tailored to your store, general health and safety measures include:
- Regularly clean – The entire store and the items within must be frequently cleaned and sanitized. This includes bathrooms, credit card machines, door handles, and merchandise. Also be sure to focus on high-touch areas like displays and shelves.
- Use signage – Consider adding regular or digital signage both inside and outside the store. These can cover safety reminders, policy changes, or rules for shopping.
- Enforce social distancing – Encourage both employees and customers to be proactive with their own safety. Whether it’s signs or floor decals denoting proper standing space, there are a variety of ways you can help keep customers spaced out.
- Control traffic inside the store – To prevent crowding and abide by local guidance, place an employee at the door who limits the number of people allowed in the shop at any given time. For instance, Walmart is limiting the number of customers to five per 1,000 ft2 of space, which represents 20% of store capacity.
- Equip employees with safety gear – For now, employees should wear masks and gloves at all times. This limits the chance that they catch or spread the illness to customers.
- Add hand sanitizer stations – Provide customers with hand sanitizers or wipes so that they can clean their hands or wipe down items. If your shop uses carts or baskets, designate an employee to thoroughly wipe them down after use.
- Use new technologies – There are a variety of new technologies that can help cut down interactions between customers and staff. For instance, Apple Pay or other touchless payment options provide an easy way to check out that don’t risk physical contact.
- Put a hiatus on your return policy – Just to be safe, you may want to suspend returns and exchanges, at least for a while. If not, consider quarantining those items for 24 hours before adding them back to the sales floor.
If you want employees to feel comfortable returning to work, you must show them that you’re taking their health concerns seriously. So, after your local and state governments allow you to reopen, be sure to notify employees in writing. This letter should contain all of the relevant safety measures and health information employees need to be aware of. Topics worth discussing include:
- General hygiene practices
- Employee screening
- What employees should do if they feel sick
- New safety policies they’ll have to follow
- Best practices for sanitization
Connect with Your Local Community on Nextdoor
Want to let everyone know that your doors are now open? Do you have a sale you want to spread the word about? Nextdoor is a great way to connect with your neighbors online, promote your store, and build lasting relationships with your neighbors.
Getting started is simple. First, set up your free Business Page. Then:
- Customize your Business Page with information about your store, photos of your products and space, and a link to your online sales portal.
- Receive your first recommendation. Try asking existing customers if they’re Nextdoor users. Once someone has sung your praises through a business recommendation you’ll start showing up in neighborhood search results.
- When you're active on Nextdoor, you can engage with neighbors to ask and answer questions, share updates, and look for locals to hire with free Business Posts. Your neighbors want to know about any new protocols you're implementing, so keep them in the loop.
Use Digital Marketing
The spread of the virus and the nationwide shelter-at-home orders forced people to rely on the internet more than ever before. In fact, according to the New York Times, internet traffic numbers have been higher than any previous time in history. Although a return to normalcy will likely reduce some of this internet traffic, your digital presence is just as important as ever.
To promote your store’s reopening and grow your digital presence, consider focusing on digital marketing via:
- Social media – Let everyone know that you're back in business via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and/or TikTok. Highlight new products on your feeds, post about a sale, and repost your customer’s reviews in your stories.
- Blogging – Blogging is an important way you can continuously build your web presence and establish your authority. Whether you’re a clothing store sharing ways to create a capsule wardrobe or a bookstore posting reviews of recent titles, you have the opportunity to engage customers on a deeper level through your blog.
- Newsletter – Keep in touch with your customers to announce your grand reopening, new sales, charitable initiatives, and more.
Fine-Tune Your Web Presence
If you already have a website but it has become dated, now is the perfect time to revamp it. This way, you can launch a virtual and in-person grand reopening.
Wondering where to start? Good options for online web and store builders include:
- Wix – With drag-and-drop templates, Wix makes it easy to create an online store. Plans start at just $13 a month.
- Shopify – Shopify’s powerful tools allow you to create a beautiful store, track analytics, and market all in one place. Plans start at $29 a month.
- Squarespace – Squarespace is another option for building a website and sales portal. Basic personal plans (starting at $12/month) enable Square payment, although you’ll be charged a transaction fee.
Prepare Your Inventory
Prior to reopening, you should ensure that your retail store is adequately stocked with all of the right merchandise. Naturally, two months of being shut in may have a major impact on buyer behavior. To prepare your store for whatever comes, take the following actions:
- Review your inventory – Conduct a review of what physical stock you have and what will quickly be depleted.
- Run sales and product reports – Historical shopping data may be a useful indicator for what shoppers were buying previously.
- Conduct online research – Visit the web to see if you can find online search and shopping trends. These trends can be used to influence what you display and offer in store.
Encourage Shoppers to Use Proper Safety Measures
Once you’ve reopened and shoppers are back in your store, it’s critical that you encourage them to abide by health- and safety-conscious procedures. They may need to change their typical behavior to accommodate your measures. Although some shoppers may push back at the notion, the vast majority will understand that you’re temporarily adding rules for everyone's safety.
For instance, consider asking shoppers to:
- Wear masks while they’re shopping
- Sanitize their hands when they enter the store
- Allow your staff to handle merchandise on their behalf
- Limit touching items as much as possible
Eventually, state and local guidelines will welcome more flexibility, and your retail store will be able to reopen fully. In the meantime, continued social distancing may mean a new normal for daily activity at your store, but a detailed plan can help your local business adjust accordingly.
As you reopen, it’s more important than ever to communicate with your community—both online and off. Let them know the actions and precautions you’re taking to protect their health. Get them excited about the chance to get back in your store. Do this, and you’ll ensure that your stores open up safely and stay that way.
SHRM. How To Practice Covid-19 Safety When Reopening Your Retail Business. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/how-to-practice-covid-19-safety-when-reopening-your-retail-business.aspx
Retail Dive. Walmart limits store traffic to 5 customers per 1K square feet. https://www.retaildive.com/news/walmart-limits-store-traffic-to-5-customers-per-1k-square-feet/575526/
New York Times. The Virus Changed the Way We Internet. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/07/technology/coronavirus-internet-use.html
For updates on regulations & business relief resources available by state, see our Small Business Relief State Guides:
- California Small Business Relief Guide
- Connecticut Small Business Relief Guide
- Florida Small Business Relief Guide
- Georgia Small Business Relief Guide
- Illinois Small Business Relief Guide
- Louisiana Small Business Relief Guide
- Massachusetts Small Business Relief Guide
- Michigan Small Business Relief Guide
- New Jersey Small Business Relief Guide
- New York Small Business Relief Guide
- Pennsylvania Small Business Relief Guide
- Texas Small Business Relief Guide
- Washington Small Business Relief Guide
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