Key Points from the Flash Call
What Is Needed to Stay Open or Reopen
Retailers must ensure that customers feel confident in their spaces. Restaurants that shifted to drive-thru, delivery, curbside and/or pickup only models in the early stages of the outbreak are now expanding their service offerings, including reopening dining rooms. For more information on restaurant reopening, click here.
Stores have implemented measures including limiting the number of customers in a store at one time, reducing operating hours to allow adequate time for cleaning/sanitization, adding signage to guide customer flows through the store and installing plexiglass dividers in certain areas. It’s important to set new standards with staff for delivering good customer service, even from six feet away.
Most retailers are expanding their technological capabilities, including building or enhancing their brand apps, embracing touchless technologies and piloting QR codes for menus or ordering. Those retailers who made substantial in-store investment in pickup lockers are taking a wait-and-see approach to determine if consumer confidence returns to the point where shoppers will be comfortable picking up merchandise from a store locker.
Health and Safety Regulations, Evolving Customer Habits and How They Impact the Store
Retailers have been working to stay one step ahead as consumer habits evolve and to predict which behavior changes are here to stay. Landlords are analyzing the customer experience as well, looking for opportunities to support retailers and thinking of programs they can implement in their centers.
Retailers also must evaluate whether consumer behavior is evolving from “shopping” to “buying” and determine the comfort level for aisle shopping and impulse buys, all while maintaining their commitment to customer service.
In the near term, new health and safety measures include queuing inside and outside the store to maintain customer limits and adding social distancing markers. Food and beverage retailers in particular report much more emphasis on grab-and-go, less emphasis on chef-driven casual dining concepts, and greater communication with customers and employees on safety and hygiene measures.
Long-term changes to the store are more difficult to quantify in the current environment of curbside pickup, given challenges including storage and staging space, increased labor requirements and maintaining customer and associate safety throughout transaction fulfillment. Many retailers have also invested in creating an omnichannel experience; how those experiences will look in the long term remains to be seen.
Changes We Expect to Bridge the Gap Versus Those We Expect to Take Hold
In terms of the built environment, certain elements like plexiglass shields are not likely to be permanent. While some retailers have paused on opening new stores, others continue to sign leases. Many of those retailers are looking for ways to support curbside pickup in those new stores, which would represent a more permanent change. Ownership portfolios will likely contain an expanded toolkit of store options to diversify customer experience.
Technology represents another permanent innovation, as many retailers have ramped up development on apps, electronic rewards programs, QR code piloting and touchless technology on everything from entrances to order fulfilment. An increased emphasis on health and wellness is likely here to stay as well.
Overall, retail is seeing is an acceleration of change that was already happening in the market. Savvy retailers have expanded use of convenience formats to enable customers to choose how they want to engage.
Panelists identified several keys for retailers who may be preparing to reopen:
- Instilling a culture of safety first and foremost in all decision making
- Listening to employees and customers and being willing to adapt based on what you learn
- Empowering managers to have localized solutions—no one-size-fits-all approach
COVID-19 isn't impacting individual stores and markets in the same way, and retailers need solutions that can adjust to the specific needs of the neighborhood and the community.
Flash Call Recording
Reconfiguring the Retail Environment for Today & Tomorrow
May 15 at 9 am PT | 11 am CT | 12 pm ET