Recently, numerous Store Operations leaders joined us for our Preparing Stores for a New Retail Landscape: Questions to Answer in Your Post-COVID-19 Planning Process webinarThe webinar, which was presented by Store Operations Council organizer, Cathy Hotka, was based on findings from Cathy’s re-opening checklist which was designed in partnership with leaders from various retail segments. You can view the recording and slides here 

The webinar featured a lively question and answer period. A recap of the key themes from the Q&A session is below. 

How should we measure performance once stores re-open? 

Everyone within the industry understands that 2020 will have a huge asterisk next to it in financial reports. So much remains unknown that it is nearly impossible to utilize LY or trending periods to gauge performance or create 30, 60, and 90-day sales plans. But there are some effectiveness indicators that you can follow to help understand performance specifically basket size, conversion, and dollars per footstep. From an expectation standpoint, during Blueday’s recent Store Operations leaders virtual coffee hour one participant noted that while traffic was down at re-opened stores in the Asian market, conversion rates and basket sizes were very high.    

How should we handle cleaning and sanitation activities within stores? 

There is no doubt that increased cleaning and sanitation related tasks are here to stay in retail. At least in the short term, retailers must make these measures very transparent to ease shoppers’ concerns. This includes having hand sanitation stations at entrances, having an associate wiping down carts before shoppers can take one, keeping returned and tried-on merchandise off the sales floor for a period of time, in addition to wearing masks and having barriers or a least some distance between associates and shoppers at check-out. The question remains as to who is best to handle these activities, especially in larger stores that may have loss prevention personnelNo matter what, Store Managers will need to account for safety and sanitation items in their daily plans and scheduling practices.  

What about touchscreens and payment pads? 

It’s difficult to imagine touchscreens being used to place orders or view product demonstrations unless there is staff dedicated to cleaning them before and after every useEven then, shoppers might still be leery about using them. Many retailers are also actively looking for ways to conduct more contactless transactions. While not allowing cash transaction may not be feasible for legal reason, retailers will be encouraging more tap to pay type transactions to avoid handling of cash or passing credit cards between the cashier and the shopper.   

How can we still allow customers to touch and try on merchandise?  

Touching merchandise and going into a fitting room to try on a new skirt, shirt, or pair of pants is an important part of the shopping experience. But both retailers and shoppers will be hesitant of these activities in the near term which will cause changes to fitting rooms and purchasing technologies to rapidly sanitize areas. The Store Operations Council is recommending that retailers invest in UV lights which can be used on merchandise which has been tried on or are on racks, as well as used racks themselves to kill germs. The measures will need to be conducted in plain sight to help instill a level of trust for the shopper.  

How should we handle returns? 

Many retailers are extending return deadlines to account for the inability to make in-store returns during stay-at-home orders. Retailers are also designating specific return locations within their stores. In addition, they are putting in protocols to hold returned merchandise for a period of time and sanitize the items before returning them to the sales floor.  

How are retailers addressing the rapid advancement of omnichannel retail? 

Ecommerce helped retailers keep connected with shoppers during store closures. Many retailers beyond grocery have implemented curbside and store pick-up, especially as re-opening becomes closer to reality. Omnichannel retail went from something that would increase over time to a must-have for retailers. As such Store Operations teams are working to develop protocols around in-store fulfillment practices answering questions such as  – who will pick the items, what type of services should each store offer, how do we display store inventory on ecommerce sites? Also being addressed is how to re-purpose current store locations to serve as darks stores to better fit the needs of omnichannel shoppers. 

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We’d love to help answer and discuss strategies with you.  

  • Our next webinar, The COVID-19 Omnichannel Imperative: How Store Operations Can Adapt, is May 27th at 1pm EDT and will be hosted by Scott Benedict, Texas A&M University’s Center for Retailing Studies DirectorSign up for the webinar here 
  • Additionally, we’re holding our second Store Operations Leaders Virtual Coffee Hour on May 13th at 4pm EDT, where you can discuss re-opening strategies with your retail peers. You can register to be part of that conversation here