The novel Coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 is in circulation around the globe, and with around four billion people worldwide in some kind of lockdown, travel has been halted, stores are closed except for those selling essential products, and going out to the bar on a Friday night has become a distant memory. So, whether the current stay at home orders last for a few more weeks or many months, it is undoubtedly going to have massive implications for retailers both in the short- and long-term.
Some stores may have been struggling before the outbreak, so during this time they have had to go into liquidation, but for those that survive, the Coronavirus crisis is likely to cause some profound changes in consumer behavior even after the virus is under control. So, what can you do to prepare for reopening your store once the lockdown has been lifted?
What to Expect
Although a vaccine is unlikely to be widely available until some point next year, stores are likely going to open before then. This means that even without orders to stay at home, many consumers are going to be reluctant to venture into retail stores for non-essential shopping trips. Of course, others are going to be jumping at the chance to get a shopping fix, but it’s important to be proactive about managing this situation as a crowd is the last thing that you want in your store.
The need for clear, transparent communication is going to be more important than ever for retailers during the post-lockdown period. Like most brands right now, you might have been in continuous communication with your customers via a range of online channels including social media and email, but once stores reopen, communication should go a step further. Make it very clear to customers what you are doing to keep them safe when they shop with you and reassure them that this is your top priority.
Store-Level Customer Engagement
Due to social distancing requirements and consumer anxiety regarding the virus, customer engagement in stores can be expected to take place at a much lower level and by different means. It’s going to become more important than ever to ensure that the local community and store staff are digitally connected; phone lines are likely to be utilized more frequently as customers will want to contact the store to ask about products being in stock before they venture outside. Casual browsing is unlikely to go back to normal for some time as customers have formed new habits of knowing what they need before they go shopping and only make trips to buy what they planned to buy.
Safety and Social Distancing
Social distancing requirements are likely to be in place in retail stores for at least the rest of the year. This means that even after lockdown is lifted, stores will need to restrict customer numbers, which might require additional staff to control the queues at the door, and installation of floor stickers and other signs to inform customers of social distancing rules in-store. It may also be worth looking into other ways to help customers stay safer, such as adding face masks to your inventory – customized designs are more stylish and will sell well – and offering hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes at the entrance and exit for customers to use.
Retail is unlikely to be the same for some time thanks to the Coronavirus, so keep these tips in mind for reopening your retail store to the public once the lockdown is lifted.