4 Important Steps to Reopening Retail
As more states begin to lift their stay-at-home orders, brick-and-mortar retail chains face the daunting task of reopening on a massive scale. An estimated 630,000 stores were closed during the pandemic, along with gyms, restaurants and other businesses. For comparison, about 2,100 retail stores were opened in all of 2019. These closed businesses now have to reopen in a relatively short time period, on an unpredictable schedule, and in compliance with strict health and safety regulations that vary by state and even by city.
This will be one of the largest logistics projects attempted in any industry, and it needs to be done perfectly to ensure the safety of employees and local communities. Businesses are having to train operations teams remotely using Zoom, and to redesign interiors to ensure safe distancing.
We’ve developed a detailed playbook for our retail customers that describes the processes and steps required for reopening in detail. Here are some key steps retailers must take to reopen safely:
1. Cleaning now means disinfecting.
All surfaces that are touched by customers will need to be sanitized regularly, often several times a day. That includes shopping carts, point-of-sale devices, door handles and more, and the work will need to be documented to ensure consistency and protect against liability. This will require huge reserves of cleaning supplies like hand sanitizers, gloves and disinfectant, some of which are in short supply. If a shopper or worker is found to have contracted the virus, the CDC recommends ventilating buildings for 24 hours before reopening and disinfecting again.
2. Redesign stores for safe distancing.
The familiar layout of stores will have to be reconfigured to help keep people a safe distance apart. That can mean installing plexiglass barriers at service counters and laying floor decals to indicate one-way traffic and ensure correct spacing for queues. Already, Walmart has been limiting stores to 20 percent of normal capacity — meaning no more than five customers for every 1,000 square feet of floor space. All stores will need to make these kinds of adjustments based on their floor plans and capacity targets.
3. Provide PPE for employees.
Frontline workers are among the most at risk, and stores will need to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves for all workers. Many businesses are conducting health checks to ensure employees are fit for work. Restaurant Brands International, for example, which owns Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes, acquired 15,000 thermometers to take workers’ temperatures at the start of each shift.
4. Reassure customers.
Consumers need to feel confident that brands are doing what’s needed to protect their health. Right now, only about one-third of shoppers say they feel safe going to malls or department stores, so establishing a sense of security is critical. That means installing prominent signage about regular cleaning efforts and marketing campaigns to assure customers you’re taking the required safety steps. Shoppers will want to see visible signs of cleaning, meaning employees should regularly wipe down surfaces and cleaning crews should be active throughout the day.
This is a momentous task for retailers operating hundreds of locations nationwide, and much will depend on the service contractors that perform this work. Many of those service teams have been affected by furloughs or illness, so hopefully you’ve checked in with them to share your reopening plans and ensure they have the capacity to perform the work. If you haven’t, do so today.
The world after COVID-19 will look very different to the one before, but I’m confident retailers will be up to the task of keeping their employees and local communities safe. We have a motto at my company during this period: Cool Heads, Warm Hearts, Clean Hands. I believe that with that spirit we can get through this together.
Tom Buiocchi is the executive director, president and CEO of ServiceChannel, the leader in facility management software and contractor sourcing.
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