By: Carrie Vestrand, Retail Services Program Manager
You have been waiting, your customers have been waiting and now the time is here to slowly ‘turn the dial up’ and open local small retail businesses in your community. Some are anxious to get going, some our apprehensive; we get it. We are all going through this for the first time together. Depending on who you talk to, you may hear two different scenarios about what to expect: a slow trickle of customers are actually entering or willing to shop at brick-and-mortar businesses when they open. To the opposite, people are more than ready to get into small businesses and out of the house.
Having a strategic plan that considers everything from personal protective equipment (PPE) and enhanced visual merchandising, to incorporating new policies and safety measures for your staff and customers will make reopening your brick-and-mortar shop less stressful and allow a feeling of empowerment because…YOU GOT THIS!
- Get your PPE. Stock up on masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes or spray! Provide masks and gloves for your employees. Have enough hand sanitizer available in your shop, e.g., at the entrance, exit, cash wrap, restrooms. Make sure all high-touch objects are disinfected after each customer. At the time of this writing, Detroit small businesses can sign up to receive a PPE starter kit here.
- If you sell apparel and customers are allowed to try on items for size/fit, consider a policy where every item tried on or returned is steamed with a high heat steamer and quarantined out of stock for a period of time you feel works for your business as discussed in this article.
- You may want to invest in a safety barrier at the cash wrap counter. It doesn’t have to be permanent and can easily be installed and taken down.
- Consider ways to accept payment without your customer having to touch too many or any pieces of equipment to do so. Think Apple pay, Cash App, Venmo, Paypal, low/no-touch credit card terminal.
- At the time of this writing the State of Michigan says a max of 10 people by appointment only.
- Post all safety policies in your shop and make sure they are easily seen and identifiable to the public. Share this info on your website and social media as well. Remember to reiterate your safety policy information when making appointments so your customers know what to expect. Check out resources for free printable signs from the Michigan Retailers Association and Detroit Means Business that you might want to use in your shop. Show your customers that you take yours, your staff, and your customer’s health and safety seriously and are doing everything in your power to make sure your business is safe to shop.
Meet & Greet
Consider having a greeter at the entrance of your shop during open hours. The greeter should make sure that anyone entering is doing so safely and adhering to policy such as wearing a face mask over their nose and mouth, but also be able to convey a welcoming and considerate atmosphere while directing customers to where they can find what they are looking for. This also offers a sense of elevated customer service for your business.
Show & Tell
We all get the ‘touchy-feelys’ when shopping: pick up, touch, smell, try on, put down–it is part of the fun of shopping! For fashion retailers, utilize as many mannequins and forms as possible. Dress them up and accessorize them for a hands free fashion show. This may help to keep customers from sifting through racks of merchandise and give them the option to just point to an item they want. You may consider incorporating a temporary policy of having only staff retrieve certain merchandise for customers rather than customers handling too many items. If they must try on merchandise for size/fit, maybe your new policy puts a limit on how many items can be tried on per visit. If space permits, try and leave overflow stock in the backroom and retrieve product as necessary. Let’s look on the bright side of appointment only shopping: This is a perfect opportunity to practice clienteling or incorporate it into your business strategy if you haven’t already. Personal and elevated customer service is what you are providing and what will bring customers back to you.
Give Them Space
Now is not the time to have a packed showroom full of an abundance of merchandise; eliminate as much as you can while still displaying the types of products you offer. Give as much space as possible between displays so that customers can move around without getting too close to someone else. You may decide to invest and implement stanchions to visually relay where customers should or shouldn’t be in your shop. If you are a service business, you may want to section off a clear path to where certain services take place. Tape off the floor where lines form so they see where six feet from the next person is.
Make the Most of Your Windows
If you have a brick-and-mortar shop, use your windows to not only show product but to also relay messages regarding policy and anything uplifting and positive–get creative. It gives the passerby the ability to still see your merchandise and get whatever messages you wish for them to consider. As always, your windows are a marketing channel and what can entice passersby to check you out and become your next customer.
It may be time to rethink your open hours. Switching to appointment only will allow you to redesign hours that will work best for you and your staff, allowing times for thorough cleanings, stocking and maintenance.
Finally, with the proper tools, knowledge, patience, determination, and the ability to move with the changes, you will be ready to safely open for business.
Want to talk about your plan for re-opening or challenges you uncover once you do open the doors again? Sign up for an open office hour with the TechTown team. We are looking forward to helping you.