Author: Poornima Mohandas

Time to read: 2 minutes

 

While the lockdown may have happened on a single day, reopening is likely to be more staggered depending on where your stores are located – hotspots or otherwise. Retail experts expect the high street stores to be reopened sooner than the mall ones.

 
It may be easy to roll down the shutters, but it is far harder to open things back up. Moreover, you need to plan for employee shifts, store and stock sanitation, protective measures for staff and customers, mobilize warehouses…the list goes on.

 
Plus you need to prepare for the long haul. “A hangover of corona will be there till there is a vaccine, that means 12 to 15 months,” predicts Dalpat Jain, CFO of Manyavar at the Retail Association of India’s (RAI) Surviving the Present and Future Impact of the Global Coronavirus Pandemic on Fashion Business in India webinar held last week. And when things reopen, it won’t be business as usual.

 
Here are some ideas that were discussed in the RAI webinar that you may want to explore as you prepare for store reopenings:

1. Retail-to-go or Retail by Appointment
As many countries were earlier on the curve than India, we can learn from their models. For instance, Texas is about to start a retail-to-go model similar to a restaurant-to-go model wherein retailers will serve their customers on the curb side. While India may not have the expansive parking lots and sidewalks like Texas, we could adapt the model to make it our own. Order online and pick up at the store may indeed become the new norm. You may also want to consider a retail by appointment model as customers want to steer away from crowds.

 
2. How to Manage Crowds

The last thing you want in these times of social distancing is a crowd in your store. Based on the square feet area of your store, set a limit on how many people can be allowed inside at a time. For the rest you can consider a token-based waiting system often seen in fast food restaurants or at the doctor’s office. Alert customers with an SMS when their turn comes up. Remember the more processes you set up will help you better survive the long haul.

 
3. Operationalize Touchless Payments
Nobody wants to handover a card to your staff anymore. While many stores are already there with Google Pay and Phone Pe, for the rest this is the time to ensure customers can avail of touchless payments.

 
4. Sanitize Stores and Give Your Staff Protective Gear
It is very important to take care of your staff at this critical time. Not only is it important for their morale, but remember even if one of them falls ill, your store could be sealed which could be very detrimental to your business.

 
Rotate your front-end staff on a fortnightly basis as is being done in the healthcare sector. This is important for three reasons:

  • You don’t need full strength as demand is not expected to be high at the very beginning.
  • This will help maintain social distancing at stores.
  • In the unfortunate event of an infection, it will ensure that not all your staff fall sick at the same time.

 
From a health and sanitation perspective here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Scan your staff’s and customer’s temperatures as they come in.
  • Hand your staff masks and gloves. Have your tailors make the gear with your branding.
  • Explore options to sanitize your merchandise.
  • Have a few tubs of hand sanitizers on full display like at the billing counter.
  • Have a housekeeping person always be cleaning
  • Set up a schedule for deep cleaning of stores
  • Consider converting your trial rooms into a break room for staff

 
5. Tell Your Customers What You Are Doing
Even after weeks of lockdown customers will need to be reassured of their safety repeatedly before they step out to shop for discretionary items like clothes and shoes. Communicate to them about:

  • What health and safety practices you are adopting.
  • How your stores and stock are being sanitized.
  • How your staff are being trained in health, hygiene, and social distancing.

 
We hope you find these ideas around retail-to-go, touchless payments, managing crowds, and sanitizing your stores useful as you set up new processes to do business in the times of Corona. We wish you luck. Stay safe and stay healthy.

 
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