Top tips to consider for re-opening after COVID-19
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by Audrey Taylor
As businesses and communities begin to re-open in different capacities, retailers everywhere are faced with one BIG question: “How do we provide our customers with a safe, yet inviting, shopping experience?” Unfortunately, there are no textbooks or surefire rules written on how to re-open your business after a global pandemic. The answer to the BIG question will be different for everyone based on the type of business, location and size of stores, and countless other variables. However, there are a handful of strategies that we believe every retailer should consider as part of their re-opening initiatives.
First thing’s first, re-think and revise all business plans that were written pre-pandemic. As tough as it may be to accept, nothing is going to be exactly as it was before this crisis. It will start with your budget. You now must consider that personal protective equipment (PPE), additional cleaning supplies, flexible scheduling for employees, and non-traditional marketing strategies will all play a role in your budget for the foreseeable future. Once you’ve identified the new elements that go into your business's daily operations, you need to carefully consider how the new protocols and guidelines will be implemented in your store. Outside of the safety recommendations from the CDC and regulations put in place by local governments, here are some tips for how to achieve the “new normal” in retail.
Be transparent and understanding with employees. Clearly and continuously communicate new hygiene, cleaning and social distancing guidelines. Leave no stone left unturned when it comes to safety. Be flexible for employees who may feel sick or uncomfortable returning to work. Make sure there is a policy in place and that it’s written down for everyone to refer to.
Consider staggered shifts to limit the number of people in the store and avoid everyone arriving at the same time. Instead of having an extra employee processing shipment or other merchandising tasks during the day, schedule those tasks to be done before or after hours.
At the door
Before your customers even step inside, you want them to know your business is going above and beyond to ensure their safety while they shop. Who would’ve thought that doorknobs were something we took for granted? Now that we are hyper-aware of the frequently touched surfaces in our lives, we have to get creative on how to avoid them. If you can prop your front door open during business hours, then do so! Not only is this safer, but also more inviting. If not, there are actually products out there that make it easy to open doors using your foot that can be found with a quick google search.
Offer disposable masks and a squirt of hand sanitizer at no charge to everyone who steps foot inside. Many people already have reusable masks of their own. However, you can’t rely solely on this and it is crucial that you are prepared for those individuals who are not personally prepared. You can find a variety of PPE products on our marketplace: OFFPRICE365.com.
Once inside, things may look a little different to your customers. Racks and displays will need to be spaced out appropriately for ease of movement. Consider trying something that has long been practiced in luxury stores. Limit the number of units on the floor as much as possible. You don’t need a full size run on the rack for customers to be interested. Utilize dynamic visual displays to capture their attention. Having fewer units on the floor is an opportunity to show off your customer service skills and strike up more conversations because the customer will need to ask you for help.
Once retail is back in full swing, small businesses will be competing with huge sales and heavily discounted products in department stores. The financial toll of this pandemic will be felt by families in every region and every socio-economic level. While consumers will still indulge in retail therapy and look to your store as an escape, they will undoubtedly be more price-conscious than before.
Now is the time to start sourcing margin-builders so you can offer your customers deals similar to what they’ll see in the department stores. Take advantage of the current opportunities in the market and invest in inventory where “quality meets value!” At OFFPRICE, we’ve posted a list of all vendors currently shipping on our COVID-19 Resource Page for your convenience.
Now, let's revisit the whole mask thing again. While disposable masks are a necessity for your business, most of your customers will be looking to invest in stylish mask designs that reflect their personality. You don’t have to look far for these; many suppliers who you already know and love have begun designing unique masks. Consider these as just another must-have accessory in your store and train your salespeople on how to incorporate fashion masks when outfitting customers.
Speaking of outfitting... Let's talk about the fitting rooms. Pre-pandemic, customers were probably used to getting comfortable in your fitting rooms and being styled by you and your team. Obviously, things have changed a bit, so you need to ensure customers that trying on is safe and clean. A new protocol for returning go backs to the floor will be necessary. We recommend steaming each item and designating a rack where garments can sit overnight after being tried on.
Since the pandemic and stay-at-home orders begun, you’ve probably already gotten creative with how to reach and serve your customers. Don’t stop! This time at home has been great practice for any retailers who didn’t previously have strong online presences. Now you’re ready for the big leagues and that means integrating the digital components of your business with the traditional. Use your website and social media to clearly communicate your plans for re-opening and all the measures you are taking to ensure your customers’ safety.
Your shoppers are going to have different levels of comfort when it comes to returning to public spaces. Wherever you customers are at on the scale of comfortability, you need to continue to meet them there. Send out some personal notes to your loyal clients letting them know that you’re there for them and you’re still willing to be flexible even though storefronts may be open again. That way no one feels pressured to leave their comfort zone.
Amp up your email marketing and let the shopping experience begin at home. Try putting together a weekly look book for your customers where they can preview in-stock products and get a taste of something new. Trust me, you don’t have to be a digital whiz to create custom and visually appealing email marketing. There are some fancy platforms out there that will cost you but here’s an insider tip -- Mailchimp offers a free membership that is just as good and still gives you the freedom of personalization. Need some creative inspiration? Check out our recent OFFPRICE Look Book!
At OFFPRICE we are rooting for you, now and always! As you continue to navigate these unfamiliar times, we will be here to support you every step of the way. For questions regarding re-opening or shopping OFFPRICE Show, contact Audrey Taylor, Buyer Relations Manager, at 262-754-6921 or email her.