Nearly overnight, COVID-19 changed how the world behaves in nearly every way. Unfortunately, the retail landscape has not been left out of this massive shift either. Across the world, we’re seeing retailers affected by sudden unanticipated closures, being forced to assess their own businesses to accommodate this unexpected change in consumer behaviour.
Shutdowns are no easy feat, any retailer will tell you this. Simple things like emptying the fridge, making sure the mail has been collected or emptying the tills properly bring new challenges. All the way up to the HR process and how to manage employees once stores are closed.
But more importantly, the one area retailers will need help in is just how to go about opening stores again when the time comes. Slowly parts of the world are opening up and if you’re a retailer readying to open your business again, there’s a host of things you need to consider and prepare for.
In close partnership with our clients and industry partners, we have identified three core components to keep in mind during and after the reopening– People, Products and Process.
The list below is helpful for retailers but also for any multi-location business currently closed. We’ve included a checklist and expanded list of guides for different departments, links to visual signage and audio assets to support your reopening.
- Keep Staff Informed: Ensure employees are informed during this time of uncertainty. If you’re a country where you can furlough employees then your staff are not unemployed but their typical lines of communication in person are absent. If you’ve had to temporarily lay off staff, you’ll need to be ready to reach out to see if they’re in a position to return to work.
- Keep Communications Open: As usual, employees will still need a way to see their schedules with key dates like reopenings. But they also need a place to stay connected and informed where they can share status updates and send personal messages to keep the whole team up to date and together.
- Provide Reassurance and Clarity: Employees will question just how COVID-19 impacts their pension, maternity leave, holidays, etc. There are too many uncertainties and questions that staff need clearly articulated information to feel assured returning to work makes the most sense for them. Continue to update your employees. One of our Intelocate customers actually noted that almost 90% of their staff are leveraging their FAQs page.
- Ensure Employee Safety: Everyone needs to feel safe and comfortable returning to work. That includes providing frontline workers with tools to effectively report issues and incidents at the store level. Turnaround time on requests and queries are key to ensure frontline staff feel protected.
- Order Personal Protection: Develop a list of required Personal Protection Equipment for all employees and begin immediately sourcing and purchasing a supply of PPE. Starting this ahead of time is necessary due to global shortages.
- Ensure Customer Safety: Store Operations, Human Resources, and Training teams need to coordinate and develop a Post COVID-19 customer engagement training program. Feeling safe in a store is a brand new paradigm that has a tremendous impact on a customer’s decision to go into a store.
- Reported Case(s) of Covid 19 in a store(s). HR and outside Medical Professionals need to author the process for dealing with reported cases of Covid-19 among the retail associates.
- Refresh Merchandising: Merchandise that is the front of the store now most surely isn’t the right merchandise that is supposed to be out there. Product is going to need to cycle out, and you’ll need to change over what’s in the front of the shop.
- Update Pricing: Pricing throughout the store will probably need updating. We know consumers have been shopping online for 6–8 weeks already and it is important to ensure your pricing has changed to reflect the market.
- Reflect the Change in Shopping Behaviour: Shopping behaviours are going to change. First and foremost, does your store reflect a reduced appetite for crowded aisles? Have you prioritized online ordering and in-store pickups? Expanded contactless payment options as consumers are less reliant on cash. As retailers, we will need to challenge age-old principles around how to merchandise.
- Assess Stock: Store audits will have a new level of importance, and documenting it in a proper format is critical. For most retailers, many weeks have passed since they were last to open leaving a lot of product and merchandise now to be out of season. It is a time for retailers to determine whether these products will be cycled out with in-store and online warehouse sales or sent to outlet stores.
- Continuous Policy Management: Be prepared to modify and adjust policies and procedures weekly or even daily with first and foremost is health and safety in mind
- Facilitate Social Distancing: Educating and reinforcing social distancing procedures with staff and customers through visual and audio aids are very important. This is not a natural habit, and gentle reminders are extremely helpful. Kroger has put together a great open-source library of signage and audio assets in support of all industries https://brandfolder.com/kroger/blueprint
- Introduce New Sanitary Measures: Implement new sanitary, health and safety measures and procedures across your business. Including hand sanitation stations positioned around the entrance and key traffic areas. Ensure you have sufficient access to vendors and suppliers and reach out to local cleaning and security specialists to have them on standby because companies will see a high influx in service requests early on.
- Measure Safety Efficiency: Incident and issue management across locations is paramount to avoid catastrophic consequences. Real-time visibility into store issues is near mandatory. Designate patrol staff that will report to the head office any issues to improve health and safety policies.
- Ensure Standard Safety Procedures: Assess emergency procedures are still in place including: unobstructed fire escape routes, functional fire alarm systems, CCTV and EAS systems.
- Reinvigorate the Supply Chain: For many retailers, stock will now be 8 weeks old. If you’re in hard goods, you may be missing key merchandise. If you’re in fresh products, you may need to inspect expiry dates and cycle products.
- Parallel Path Supporting Services: Ensure all supporting services and systems (security, delivery, cleaning etc.) are lined up with your starting date.
While we’ve been quarantined or at least social distancing for approximately eight weeks now, we have gotten accustomed to a new way of shopping. As we heard from leaders across the world, it’s not about when we open, it’s about how we open. There’s a lot to think about, many of which are completely new for retailers, even for the most experienced. In our checklist above, we’ve already challenged several age-old retail traditions about how a typical shopping trip will look in-store.
Intelocate works closely with retailers and operators around the world. We’ve already started to see changes in how our clients navigate and operate their businesses in this new climate. While this time of uncertainty is daunting, we believe it provides retailers with an opportunity to have a bigger discussion around their businesses. As our world continues to rapidly evolve, the need to critically assess operations escalates. We’d love for you and your business to be part of this discussion in the weeks to come.