Opening stores and other retail facilities after they’ve been closed for a while isn’t as simple as just switching the light back on. Buildings are like people. They are built out of complex systems that require continued operation and maintenance. Before you restart your closed stores, consider the following points to ensure that your staff and customers are kept safe.
1. Inspect buildings
If your store has sat idle for a period of time, you’ll need to inspect the building and restart key systems. For example, test lighting systems, inspect windows and doors for any sign of damage, and check to make sure there are no unwanted animal or insect guests that need to be dealt with before reopening.
2. Inspect and restart heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)
You’ll also need to check HVAC systems. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be used to change air filters. You’ll want to update your policies to increase the frequency of filter changes. And ventilation systems should be run for a period of time before reopening, and not completely shut off when the store is closed.
3. Flush drinking water
In addition, idle drinking water plumbing should be flushed per local authority best-practice guidelines. And if your store offers public drinking fountains or bubblers, you may want to close them to prevent contamination.
4. Clean and prepare for future cleaning
Choose antiviral cleaning products and develop policies to make sure staff have the appropriate protective clothing (gloves, safety goggles) and ventilation when they perform cleaning tasks. You’ll also need to develop training on the safe use and handling of cleaning chemicals.
5. Update policies for shared Point of Sale (POS) systems and staff credit for a sale
In store formats where multiple staff members typically alternate use of Point of Sale systems, you’ll need to rethink your policies. Should a single staff member be assigned to a terminal and process all orders? Will staff need to wipe down surfaces after each use? How will you attribute sales to individual staff members going forward? Or should you invest in more devices (ideally mobile) so that each staff member can use their own? And sanitize devices at the start and end of each shift.
6. Create and stock hygiene stations
Staff will need places stocked with soap, hand sanitizer and paper towels so they can wash regularly. And they’ll need a ‘no-touch’ receptacle for waste disposal. Make sure these stations have appropriate signage too.
In addition, install touchless hand sanitizer stations at store entry and exit points, and consider adding them at other locations in the store as well.
7. Install floor markings and signage and consider moving fixtures
Signage and floor markings will help customers and staff follow social distancing rules, and are particularly important at store entrances, check outs, customer service, lunch areas and any other places where customers or staff have congregated in the past. Create one-way passages where possible, or make aisles wider, and consider moving fixtures to prevent customers congregating in one spot.
8. Review policies for site visits
Reach out to your vendors, contractors, or suppliers and work with them to develop stronger procedures for site visits to ensure the safety of visitors, staff and customers. This may also include restricted visiting hours. And eliminate non-essential vendor store visits by developing policies for remote interaction.
9. Encourage contactless checkout
Consider ways to minimize staff handling of cash, credit cards, rewards cards, coupons and mobile devices, and even merchandise sold.
10. Consider temperature screening for staff
Research local rules to determine if temperature screening is appropriate and legal in your area. This may include on-site screening for staff or pre-shift screening at home. It could also include screening of contractors, suppliers and vendors. And don’t forget you’ll need to train screeners and provide them with appropriate PPE.
11. Let staff provide feedback
Situations change quickly, and local conditions may vary. So give staff a way to provide feedback on what’s working and what’s not and continue to update your policies and procedures. But consider making it anonymous so they feel empowered and safe if they make suggestions.
12. Monitor and enforce policies
Identify and train staff to continuously monitor and enforce safety protocols to build trust and ensure the safety of staff and customers.
13.Review opening and shift hours
You may want or need to reduce opening hours, stagger the shift start and end times for staff to reduce traffic in and out of buildings and congregations in staff areas, or close for periods during the day to allow for cleaning. You may also want to offer special hours for ‘high risks’ customers, or extend hours and reduce the volume of staff and customers in the store at any one time.
14. Develop contactless pickup processes
For Click and Collect or Buy Online Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) orders, consider ways to offer ‘touch free’ pickup. To do this you’ll need to develop new processes, and clearly communicate the steps to customers. This may include curbside delivery—preferably to the trunk or boot of the car to limit contact—or adjustments to your existing in-store pickup processes like extending areas for lines to accommodate social distancing, and placing pickup in a low traffic area of the store.
You may also want to fine tune your store fulfillment rules, for example limiting the number of:
- Orders sent to each store each day
- Open orders at any given store
- Orders waiting to be picked up that any store can hold at one time
Reopening facilities to the public is a process that will take time. As you begin bringing your staff and customers back into your stores, ensure that you have a plan that considers and addresses all potential safety concerns. This is the first step in re-establishing consumer trust in a changing world.