The Store Operations Council today launched its first set of recommendations for retailers to follow as they gradually reopen stores over the next few months. Post COVID-19, retailers will want to reopen stores in a manner that protects associates and customers alike. The goal of the recommendations from the Store Operations Council is to help retailers create sustainable practices for virus mitigation.
“While the concept of disruptive retail has long been on the minds of leading retailers, the COVID-19 crisis has forever changed the way our industry conducts business with the utmost priority for the safety and health of team members and customers,” said Mary Lawley, VP Store Administration, Tractor Supply Company. “The Tractor Supply team, along with leadership at dozens of major U.S. retailers, is honored to collaborate on these guidelines to help our peers take the proper steps for ensuring that the future of disruptive retail starts off on the right foot.”
The council’s initial set of recommendations are broken into four key categories:
Reassure customers by projecting competence, reliability and calm
Consumers have been conditioned to stay at home at all cost. However, as we move toward the “great reopening,” it will be important for retailers to create structure and project calm to instill confidence in cautious customers and build trust. This includes remaining consistent on all safety measures in all stores, bringing personality to safety actions such as employee masks with hand-drawn smiles, and finding ways to directly contribute to or support first responders and local businesses.
Take care of and communicate with sales associates to keep them engaged
Taking care of employees – a retailer’s biggest asset – is critical during this time. Store associates are a retailers’ brand ambassadors and front-line heroes. During this time, it is important to communicate regularly with employees as stores begin to reopen, ask them for their feedback and ensure they are aware of future-forward planning. As well, take every precaution to protect the physical and mental health of store associates.
Ensure proper sanitization efforts to reassure customers and store associates
Customers and store associates alike will be on their guard when returning to the store. Create opportunities to live stream cleaning operations to demonstrate how stores and work areas are being disinfected. Create unique ways to explain new social distancing measures before the store opens, post special signage that emphasizes the importance of social distancing and ensure customers know who they can contact for questions or concerns about COVID-19 procedures.
Bolster no-contact, last-mile precautions
When stores re-open, there will be a strong demand for no-contact pickup from customers who will be leery of re-entering a store. Retailers should consider enforcing procedures that include creating designated curbside pickup locations or consider alternatives such as lockers for contactless item pick-up. Until consumers become less skittish with 1-1 contact, retailers should also encourage more contactless transactions and delivery.
“When public health leadership and city, county and state health departments signal permission to reopen society, we all know that it won’t be business as usual and our favorite stores will not look the same,” said Cathy Hotka, founder of the Store Operations Council. “Even with the changes ahead of us in this ‘new, new normal,” I am confident the retail industry will rise to the challenge as it has always done. It is the Store Operations Council’s goal to provide retailers with the blueprint for creating a successful re-imagining of retail.”
Click here to register for access to the Store Operations Council “Reopening Retail Safely” Guidelines document.