Is it OK to go shopping again?

We are months into this quarantine, and as the days get longer, going back to “normal” – whatever that even means – is up in the air. What exactly is happening in the retail industry? How will it continue? Will I ever feel comfortable shopping in person again, or am I destined for a life of curbside pickup? These are all valid questions, as the retail industry is experiencing plenty of changes (both good and bad), and COVID-19 has made shopping a brand-new experience.

Reopening Plan

At this point in time, we are seeing slow but steady openings across the country. Most retailers have reduced hours, have suspended returns, and are minimizing the number of employees and shoppers in each store at one time.

Select states like Georgia, Texas, Utah, Tennessee, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Montana were the first to have stores open again. They were not just ignoring safety; in fact, it became the most important update. They all opted for slowly opening in phases and testing out specific locations before going countrywide. Usually phase one was having curbside pickup and delivery options to keep things running on a minimal scale.  But, according to the New York Times, several of those states have also seen increasing cases over the past few weeks.

New Changes

Just because stores are opening does not mean they will ever be the same again; it will be a whole new world for every shopper. The food side of retail has been deemed essential and has had to go through major changes to be able to stay open during this pandemic. Those changes will be implemented into all retail stores as the world opens up. The mask will continue to be an outfit essential. Social distancing will be enforced with signs reminding you throughout the stores. Reduced hours are still in effect, along with special designated hours for those who are at risk and elderly. A limited number of people will be allowed in at any one time. Plexiglass will be installed everywhere needed. As we mentioned, curbside pickup and delivery options will be available everywhere to ensure more shopping options. Fitting rooms are no longer usable. Product testers will be eliminated, and E-receipts will be used more often than printed ones. Employees will have to go through changes as well, with temperature checks, mandatory hand washing and cleaning measures, staggered shifts, and for some, an increase in pay.

Leadership and Employment

Unfortunately, the U.S. has seen a dramatic increase in unemployment the past few months. In every single store, 50% to 100% of employees were laid off. Even though 90% of them have continued receiving health benefits and some relief programs, the loss of income is something many people are struggling with. This hits everyone from the cashier who checks your items out to the CEO who runs the business at large. In fact, 13% of CEOs completely halted their salary, and another 15% took a 50% pay cut. Same with the rest of the executive teams.

What they really want to show is that everyone is taking a pay cut and struggling, and that they stand in solidarity; all money and efforts should go into keeping the business alive during these struggling times. Fortunately, once they start opening the stores, the jobs should start coming back. Just because a lot of jobs have been lost, does not mean it’s a hopeless situation. Many essential stores like Walmart, Lowe’s, Rite Aid, Amazon, etc. are currently hiring thousands of employees at an increased hourly pay rate to compensate for the risks involved.

All of this is new to business owners, and no one knows what tomorrow will bring, but if consumers still shop – and quarantine boredom has turned us all into shopaholics – retail will always stay alive.

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