Retailers Reopening With New Policies and Practices in Place
The COVID-19 crisis has forced brands and retailers to shift operations to keep employees and customers safe while finding a way to continue doing business. For some, that has meant shifting focus online. But for many, online sales are a fraction of the typical volume of their brick-and-mortar business.
Apparel retailers — like most businesses during the coronavirus pandemic — are implementing policies such as mask requirements for workers and customers and maintaining social distancing between people in the store. Some are limiting store hours to make sure open hours reflect an efficient balance between meeting customer demand and allowing employees time to receive inventory and keep the store clean and organized. In some cases, retailers have had to reconsider the layout of areas of their stores where sales associates and customers are most likely to come in close contact, such as entrances, cash wraps and fitting rooms.
The National Retail Federation has some general guidelines for retailers looking to reopen safely.
This issue was discussed during the last Kingpins24 in a conversation between Denim Dudes’ Amy Leverton and Ashley Countee, women’s buyer for American Rag CIE.
Countee walked Leverton through the Los Angeles retailer’s reopening when the city of L.A. lifted restrictions on non-essential businesses. That timing proved to be inopportune as the retailer opened the day George Floyd protests were held in that part of Los Angeles.
“We did have customers, but we had to quickly close because of how fast the news spread,” Countee said.
Since then, American Rag has reopened for business and has made several changes to the store layout and to employee practices.
In addition to plexiglass dividers at the cash wrap stations, there are markings on the floor to help everyone maintain social distancing.
There are also new practices for the dressing area, including wiping down fitting rooms after each customer and moving any garments tried on but not purchased to the back room to be steamed and then left overnight before returning them to the sales floor.
While retailers are testing a number of practices to maintain everyone’s safety, one thing remains crucial: the relationship between the retailer and the customer.
“I think it’s really going to be important that there is this bond between the sales associates and the customers coming in,” Countee said. “They’re going to want to be able to trust you, which is a great thing, because then that means they’re gonna be loyal to the people and wanting to come back.