Cultivating a safe shopping environment for customers and staff members is critical to a retailer’s bottom line.
Every customer that enters your retail establishment should see that you are maintaining proper social distancing measures between people, and this will go a long way to reassuring customers that you respect their well-being as a priority. Quite simply, any extra precautions you implement during these times are worth the investment. You can consider adding sneeze guards to high traffic areas, such as cash registers or host/hostess stands, as these barriers encourage people to maintain a minimum required social distance, and will help your customers and employees feel safer.
Here are some important social distancing tips we recommend to ensure a safe and secure shopping environment.
1. Start with the Right Data
Before making any drastic changes to your store’s floor plan, take some time to gather all of the important data necessary to inform the right retail space planning decisions. Be sure to look into your state or city’s guidelines on, for example, the number of people that you can have in your store at any given time. If retailers in your city are required to operate at just 50% capacity, then you will need to plan out your space to comply.
Next, analyze your foot traffic data to see which areas of your store attract the most people, and get as detailed an analysis as possible, by getting data on the peak times and days of the week. If you know that people are spending the most time at the center of your store, then you will know that you have to position product displays to accommodate more visitors, while also affording them additional space to social distance.
Don’t forget to consider the number of employees you have in the traffic analysis. Social distancing may require you to reduce staff numbers during peak times, in order to enable your visitors and staff to maintain a safe environment—and you can always shift on-duty staff members to less crowded parts of your store during peak times.
Once you have a lock on your state-level compliance requirements, you can mitigate risk to your customers and employees by implementing the following protocols:
- Use signage to communicate capacity restrictions for facilities in your store, like elevators, stairwells, offices, restroom and waiting areas. Block usage of any and all drinking fountains with appropriate signage.
- Place floor sticker-signs as queue-management tools, in order to demarcate spacing guidelines that can designate social distancing requirements for customers waiting to check out near cashiers or entrances.
- Prepare signage for all floor spaces to clearly demarcate capacity limits and designate staff to track, monitor and enforce capacity.
2. Set Up Power Walls
Product display solutions that maximize space when floor plans are under massive pressure from social distancing restrictions are at a premium today. Vertical shelves using gridwall or slatwall hardware create plenty of space to showcase your products, while also giving your customers enough floor space to socially distance. It’s the ideal display solution for today’s retail space challenges—especially for SMB retailers, who have smaller stores and limited floor space.
Be creative with your vertical shelf placement and place your products at different levels, and you will be rewarded with “power walls” that really make an amazing visual impact that catch the eyes of incoming customers!
3. Train and Protect Your Staff
Retailers who take seriously their responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees will reap the benefits, in more ways than one.
Since safety is top of mind for people right now, it’s not always easy to find retailers who are taking safety seriously. When your customers have a safe and secure experience at your store, it will likely be memorable, and they will tell others. Word of mouth is an amazing marketing tool, and it can also hurt you if comments are negative. Therefore, make sure that training your staff on safety is a priority, and you may be providing yourself with free word of mouth marketing, which is one of the most powerful marketing channels for retail businesses.
Keep your staff, and customers, safe by frequently disinfecting high-touch surfaces and objects like cash registers, countertops, door handles, etc. Provide plentiful hand sanitizer dispensers on counters, or on standing dispenser displays, for all staff and customers to use. All cash registers should be disinfected with an alcohol-based cleaning solution, and staff should be provided with disposable gloves to handle items at the register. Even better, you can insist on customers using contactless payment methods like ‘tap-and-go’ cards, rather than cash.
Some of the most important policies to put in place and communicate to staff members include:
- Provide clear expectations on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Guidelines for temperature and health monitoring. Share clear disclosure requirements for reporting confirmed cases of COVID-19 for employees and their family members. Make sure these policies follow the guidelines of your state and federal authorities.
- Communicate paid time off and rules for leave taking, including extended leave that follows related COVID-19 regulations.
4. Communicate with Your Customers
Share a unified message with customers across different social platforms, your brand’s website or newsletter that is consistent, empathetic and timely. When you share the social distancing measures you have put in place, be prepared for feedback, and act on it by answering questions and addressing recommendations. By highlighting your safety measures and being receptive to feedback, you are showing your customers they can be confident your establishment is safe for visitors and employees alike.
Follow the tips in this post and use them to successfully implement social distancing measures in your retail store. Your customers will feel that their best interests are kept in mind, and they will certainly reward you with repeat visits.
About the Author
Ray Ko is the Senior Ecommerce Manager at ShopPOPDisplays. With years of experience in the retail space, Ray is an expert in formulating and implementing e-commerce strategies to increase revenue.