When the pandemic upended life in March, retailers fell into two groups: those that remained open and those that closed suddenly. As “non-essential” retail stores darkened, “essential” mass merchants, home improvement chains, grocers and drugstores took a crash course in safeguarding employees, business health and customers as they worked and shopped. 

Now, those experienced retailers are helping “non-essential” retailers implement best practises for reopening and operating safely. The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, has created an extremely detailed industry instruction document called Operation Open Doors

“NRF’s exhaustive checklist guides retailers through everything they have to consider or change to reopen and operate safely – from training employees and modifying store layouts to handling inventory, maintaining cleanliness and ensuring proper social distancing,” says says Kelleree Hoggard, Paul Davis Vice President, Commercial. “Fortunately, retailers who remained open have very useful recommendations for evaluating and revamping plans and procedures across four broad categories.”

Employment: Employers must address multiple issues affecting the workforce – the linchpin of any retail establishment – including rehiring if furloughs or layoffs occurred, return to work planning, applicable workplace safety regulations, scheduling, training, refusal-to-work issues, new rules for illness and sick leave as well as possible workforce COVID-19 outbreaks, compensation and benefits changes, new hiring practices, union relations, liability, record-keeping and many more too numerous to list here. 

Essential retailer recommendation: Appoint a return to work team to ensure all critical workforce considerations and requirements are addressed.

Logistics/Operations: Employers must address many factors including but not limited to preparing facilities, interfacing with landlords, designating hours of operation, designing traffic flow, installing signage, ensuring security, retrofitting for new processes such as contactless shopping and online purchasing, and much more. 

Essential retailer recommendation: Analyze pre-COVID-19 logistics/operations to identify, rank and address critical areas that require attention or modification during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supply Chain/Inventory: Employers must work with a range of internal and external partners to assess supply chain, supplier relationships and operations, supplies and equipment for cleaning and PPE, inventory management including returns and exchanges, and on floor processes such as managing fitting rooms and restocking. 

Essential retailer recommendation: Many stores have suspended less critical inventory management policies such as returns and exchanges as well as fitting room operation. Consumers have readily accepted these temporary measures.

Maintenance: Employers must ensure that surfaces are treated regularly, scrupulous cleanliness is maintained, and PPE is appropriately deployed. Many retailers are hiring outside firms such as Paul Davis to assist in this process.

Essential retailer recommendation: Visible and regular maintenance is critical to ensuring that shopper confidence, loyalty and comfort remain high as they visit and shop.

Are you a retailer seeking an expert to guide the reopening and safe operations of your store? Paul Davis is on the scene within four hours of a call for help.