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Delivering a post-lockdown store: What you need to consider

As we prepare to move out of Level 4, I’m sure you are thinking, as we have been, what your new retail normal will look like. And importantly, how do we adapt and change our bricks and mortar retail offering so we can trade effectively and move forward with purpose and direction for now and in the future.

Right now there’s a sense of fear, as customers move through stores and engage with delivery services (remember that serious and sombre feeling in the supermarket?). As retailers, it is imperative for us to figure out how to bring a sense of reassurance, structure and calm to customers when they are in our environments, which includes making it obvious how clean our stores are and how robust our process is.

It is unlikely the current penchant for cleanliness will subside. 87% of US shoppers prefer to shop on stores with touchless or robust self checkouts.

Those who have a strong online offer will be well placed to move forward. Those of us with a predominantly bricks and mortar network will be wrangling - trying to work through next steps.

It’s likely physical retail will be restricted for many retailers for some time yet, so how can we reimagine our offer, network and redeploy our team and services to better serve the community and keep retailing?

We have been talking with our contacts around the world and studying our overseas counterparts, watching closely as retail starts to reopen around the globe. At this stage it looks as if Contactless or Touchless Retail is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

The 5 key areas for consideration when planning to reopen your physical stores

1. Extra cleaning protocols and safety precautions (no sh*t Sherlock!) One of the most obvious requirements is the need to implement elevated cleaning and sanitising protocols to stores. Your cleaning practices should meet and ideally exceed public health guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Define a cleaning system to ensure the well-being of our team members and customers including more frequent cleaning and sanitising of high-contact surface areas, increased hand washing by team members, making relevant PPE available, supplementing team hand washing with hand sanitiser.

Provide hand sanitiser at key locations at:

  • Entrance/exit

  • Intervals throughout the store

  • Counter

  • Back of house – Inwards goods, staffroom, stockrooms

Consider implementing:

  • PPE storage and donning stations for team members at start and end of shifts – create a location instore for team members to set up for their shift with relevant use of safety equipment.

  • Robust waste disposal practices – ensure safe disposal of used PPE at the end of shift.

  • Shift change management – consider any requirements for shift changes; communication updates to team members, implementing work team bubbles and health checks.

Support with:

  • Information and compliance signage.

  • Hand sanitiser stations – mounted, counter and free-standing.

2. Social distancing implementation and protection support Keeping a physical distance of 2m (6ft) from other people is one of the many ways COVID-19 has changed the way we shop. Your social distancing plans should aim to protect customers from the moment they enter your car park (if you have one), to browsing products, to paying and finally exiting our stores.

Consider implementing:

  • Entry marshals – team members can be redeployed to concierge customers; meet and greet, deploy capacity management and contact tracing (time-stamping entry into the store).

  • Creation of 2-metre aisles – de-merchandise product displays in key locations to create 2m aisles; particularly at entrances and exits, counters and other key waiting locations or thoroughfares instore.

  • Introduction of one-way aisles (where 2 metre aisles can’t be established) – most stores don’t have the luxury of 2m aisles, in these situations’ aisle can be turned into 1-way thoroughfares to support the 2m distance rule.

  • Counter protection screens.

Support with:

  • Store review – assess what measures you can put in place for social distancing instore.

  • 2-metre social distancing signage.

  • Queue markers – and approx wait times.

  • Directional one-way aisle signage.

  • Contact tracing technology/support (we have two options in our newsletter for you to check out).

3. Contactless Services

Developing new ways to continue to serve your customers and give them access to your products with confidence and ease will secure their ongoing support and engagement. The services you deploy will be dependent on your product offer, location and store access, but here are a few thought starters…

Consider implementing:

  • A drive through - does your shopfront (or side, even rear) have a drive-through opportunity? Can you establish an area in your carpark (if you have one) to facilitate this, or maybe you can you partner with others to establish a collection point?

  • Kerbside delivery - define an internal process for team members to deliver the paid goods to a waiting driver for collection. This could be app-based or driven by online payment. KFC in the US has implemented new contactless delivery options.

  • Online fulfilment stations - defined and secure online packing areas instore to enable online distribution from local store hubs.

  • Self-checkout – can you add in self-checkouts to your footprint to enable customer-managed payment?

  • Touchless payment – if you haven’t already it's essential to upgrade your POS system to take payWave and Apple Pay

  • Vending machines (probably more of future strategy) – ways to get your product in more locations without person to person contact

Support with:

  • Inwards and outwards goods control, including scheduled delivery and pick up times to minimise contact

  • Internally managed delivery – redeployment of team members to ensure ownership of the delivery process

  • Information and compliance signage

  • Contactless delivery – bring on the driverless cars!

4. Robust communication As stores look to reopen, the lines of communication between stores and support office are even more critical. A good robust communication process for stores to report issues and support office to report updates on products and promotional messaging etc will be essential.  It’s also essential to be clear in your communication with customers on what to expect from their local store. For retailers with more than 1 store – it may be that not all stores across your network will have an open shop front. Consider implementing:

A COVID customer communication plan (website, Facebook, Instagram, app):

  • Update daily, or as needed, as level updates change or your refine your services, offer and support.

  • Communicate which stores are doing what - closed, delivery only, closed for online fulfilment only, open, drive through, kerbside pick up etc.

A team member communication pack to:

  • Outline team safety guidelines

  • Define new policies and procedures

  • Provide set up instructions, guidance and placement for signage and safety support elements to store teams.

5. Network strategy It is likely bricks and mortar retail will take time to return to previous trading patterns. While people will still crave physical retail experiences, they will be cautious explorers and footfall will likely be low for a period of time. Retailers with more than one store in their network should analyse their site locations to review and reimagine how the footprints can best service the local community during this restricted retail period and into the future. As contactless and online services have been in unprecedented demand, we need to think agilely to best utilise the assets we have in our networks to best service customer demand. This is an exciting opportunity to reimagine your retail footprint (and you have the cloud-cover to right-size the network long term), to ensure you have the right resources in the right locations to enhance your fulfilment and supply chain.  Consider implementing:

  • Online fulfilment stores/hubs - not all stores need to have an 'open shopfront'. Some strategically located stores could remain closed and be redeployed as delivery hubs for online fulfilment.

  • Showrooming - reset the store layout to decrease the current trading area to showcase single items (one of each size, not back-up stock) and brand experiences (engaging displays and demonstrations), while increasing the back-of-house area to better facilitate online fulfilment. This principle will also keep back up stock prepackaged ready for delivery and minimise contact points. Back of house can be set up like a fulfilment centre, while the front of house is a brand experience for those wanting to touch and feel and interact with the product.

  • Collaborate with like-minded retail partners and share your network footprint to extend your reach - look at a combined approach to your network strategy - sharing costs and locations.

As a summary of the key points above, we have complied a COVID-19 Level 2 Store Reopening Checklist. It details the outputs and touchpoints you can look to implement or support across the store zones.

So what next??

There’s a lot to do! You will need immediate support to help navigate your customers and team through your new instore protocols.

APC Innovate have put together excellent COVID-19 signage and protection packages to help retailers get the message across. To view a selection of the solutions (some of which we have highlighted in this article).

RetailX can help you get the right approach in place for every size business.

For those of you who have specialised needs or brand requirements, that are outside the APC Innovate package our RetailX design team is here to help. Let us help you with the heavy lifting.

We can recommend and develop the best support package and elements for your business and services including:

  • Revision of your store layouts and floorplans to manage the new customer flow

  • Store reviews to define the most appropriate protection package for your products and services

  • Recommend a new network strategy for trading now and into the future

  • Brand-specific design and manufacture management of ‘COVID-19 signage and protection packages’ to best suit your brand experience

Contact Lisa Donaldson for further information or phone on 021 870 232.

Lisa Donaldson is Retail Experience Director at RetailX and has held significant leadership roles including Retail Environment Manager for some of NZ top retailers. Lisa has helped shape some of New Zealand’s largest retail brand experiences including Countdown, Life and Unichem Pharmacys, BedsRUs, Carpet Court to name a few. What creative skills grounded in a pragmatic, business-savvy approach, Lisa makes retail spaces work hard, ensuring the elegant flow between merchandise, operations and marketing to capture the shopper's imagination.

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