For many retailers, having a successful holiday season this year could determine whether or not they stay in business. The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout have been the ultimate blow for a host of major retailers who declared bankruptcy this year, including J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, GNC, Pier One, Stein Mart, and more.
According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales represent 20% of annual retail sales each year, so it’s crucial that retailers do everything they can to generate sales to cover the losses they may have experienced during this challenging year. Online spending has grown at a staggering rate during the pandemic, 77% year-over-year, but not all businesses offer e-commerce or generate enough online sales to support their brick-and-mortar locations. This holiday season, retail businesses must actively take steps to ensure their employees’ and customers’ safety and reassure them that it is safe to work and shop in-store while still providing a positive customer experience.
While there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to this challenge, the Harvard Business Review recommends retailers consider the following when re-imagining their in-store experience to make holiday shopping safer:
Reduce the density of people within a space.
Social distancing has been a key tenant in preventing the spread of Coronavirus, and in a retail setting, that means stores need to put policies and procedures in place to keep crowds from gathering as well as prevent lines from forming. There are several ways to achieve this. Other retailers limit the number of people that can be in the store at the same time by manually or automatically restricting the number of people inside. Additionally, many stores use floor stickers and other visual cues to show how spaced apart customers should be.
However, when businesses work to reduce customer density, sales can suffer. To offset this, retailers may want to consider expanding their hours. Additionally, the shopping process should be optimized for speed so more people can shop during business hours and so customers are exposed to each other for shorter periods. Retailers should reconsider their long-held practice to encourage customers to browse slowly. Displays should promote faster decision making, music should be more upbeat, and stores should be well-staffed to ensure the check-out process is quick and efficient.
Make the store flow more predictable.
Retail businesses do not always know when their stores will be crowded or empty or best practices for keeping patrons from getting too close to one another (which can often happen when customers are shopping at different paces). Stores can make these variables more manageable by scheduling specific shopping times for older customers or more vulnerable populations, offering reserved appointment times for shopping, and creating one-way routes through the store to limit shopper interactions.
When retailers combine these measures with other safety protocols such as automated temperature screenings, mask requirements, increased sanitization efforts, and proper ventilation, they’ll be better able to make holiday shopping safer while also protecting their workers and customers, encourage a safe and happy shopping experience, and enhance revenue during this holiday season.
At DeCurtis, we’re helping businesses of all kinds mitigate the spread of illness and successfully stay open with our innovative safety and security technology. To learn more, visit our website or contact us today.