Retail

Retailers Work To Convince Consumers It's Safe To Shop In Stores

glove, face mask

As they navigate the coronavirus pandemic and begin to reopen stores, large retailers are putting safety measures into place to keep shoppers and staff members safe — and get customers confidently back into stores.

For instance, Ulta Beauty is having all staffers wear face coverings in its brick-and-mortar locations, and it will request that shoppers do the same. The company also noted that customers will find “visual cues” like floor decals or signage to ensure six feet of social distancing.

In addition, Ulta Beauty says that it’s “elevating its already strong practices in-store with increased protocols for regular cleaning and disinfecting public spaces throughout the day.” The company also notes that open product is now for “display only” and customers will find signage in the retail locations emphasizing the new policy.

And Suitsupply has rolled out “Safe Shopping Screens,” which it describes as “free-standing partitions allowing for safe, up-close interaction without modifying the customer's behavior during pinning sessions.” The company notes that “some safety measures, such as face masks/reduced store capacity, are expected to ease away in the long term, but early analysis reveals customers are learning new behaviors that are expected to continue post-pandemic.”

Trade groups are also providing guidance to help retailers open their doors again. The Retail Industry Leaders Association, along with the National Retail Federation (NRF), recently rolled out a phased-in approach to reopening retail called the Blueprint for Shopping Safe.

Jason Brewer, the group’s executive vice president of communications and state affairs, told PYMNTS in an interview that the group has had “hundreds of conversations with retailers on topics ranging from supply chain to asset protection to workplace safety” over the last two months focusing on what it means to operate in a time of COVID-19.

Brewer said the blueprint is a result of those conversations. He noted that retail is in a unique position as some retailers such as pharmacies and grocery stores “have remained open over the last eight weeks.” Others have closed their physical locations to foot traffic out of an abundance of caution. But, as the economy reopens and retailers plan to open their doors again, he said the group realized there was much to learn from grocers and pharmacies.

The blueprint details three phases for reopening retail, with the first phase allowing eCommerce, curbside pickup and in-home delivery. The second phase, on the other hand, is to re-open stores to the public with social distancing protocols and reduced occupancy. In the third phase, retailers will have the discretion to take away coronavirus-related procedures besides those involving bolstered screening and sanitation processes.

To help guide stores, the National Retail Federation recently unveiled its “Operation Open Doors” Initiative. Craig Shearman, a spokesperson for the NRF, told PYMNTS in an interview that the project is “a comprehensive program to help retailers identify the issues they need to consider as they prepare to reopen — and a way to share best practices that we’ve learned from the retailers that have remained open during the pandemic.”

As PYMNTS previously reported, reopening the economy in the United States — and everywhere in the world — requires the creation of critical mass throughout key stakeholders from businesses to employees as well as customers and buyers. Almost four times more consumers now shop online for groceries — from 4 percent to 15 percent in the last seven weeks, with consumers who shop in digital channels preferring curbside pickup and delivery as an alternative to going into physical stores.

Three times the number of consumers now shop online for products other than groceries despite the fact that their spending across the board has declined. And approximately half — or 48 percent — report that digital behaviors will stick across many of the categories we studied through shopping, traveling and dining, among other areas.

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