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Some major chains reopen stores with new safety protocols in place

Hundreds of Platypus, Hype DC and The Athlete’s Foot stores will reopen over the next two weeks despite the Federal Government’s strict social distancing requirements remaining in place until at least May 11.

The stores will feature new safety protocols to comply with Government directives, including hand sanitiser stations, disposable try-on socks, contactless customer service and payments, reduced capacity limits and 1.5-metre social distancing at counters and in seating areas.

These measures will be reviewed and adapted as the environment evolves, according to the shoe chains’ parent company Accent Group, which announced the progressive reopening of its corporate stores on Monday.

The decision comes one month after the company announced the temporary closure of its physical store network on March 27 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

While retailers in most categories were not, and still have not been, required to close, many major chains opted to shut their physical stores amid falling foot traffic and growing concern for staff and customer safety. Now, as the number of new coronavirus cases continues to decline, some retailers are looking to reopen.

Brand Collective, which operates several fashion brands including Superdry and Hush Puppies, is considering reopening some stores this week, while Kidstuff has been reopening select stores since early April.

Vicinity Centres’ Emporium Melbourne has also reopened, three weeks after temporarily closing its doors.

“We made the decision to close Emporium Melbourne to support our retailers which had closed, either as a result of government measures or voluntarily,”said Grant Kelley, Vicinity CEO and MD.

“We’re pleased to see renewed confidence as a result of government stimulus measures with some retailers wanting to reopen their doors, and we’re continuing to support our retailers through to recovery.”

The shopping centre said it had 15 retailers ready to trade, including Muji, Polo Ralph Lauren, Chanel and Anne Fontine, with several other brands expected to reopen in the coming weeks. It has revised its trading hours to 11am to 4pm, with dining operators continuing to operate night-time delivery services seven days a week.

Accent Group said it made the decision to reopen after seeing increased demand for footwear for essential workers, such as the Skechers range for health professionals, and athletic shoes through The Athlete’s Foot and Stylerunner websites.

It has seen a strong increase in digital sales, which quadrupled from an average of approximately $250,000 a day prior to store closures in March, to between $800,000 to $1.1 million a day in the last two weeks of April.

The company’s CEO Daniel Agostinelli said he expects the increase in online sales to be a permanent shift.

“It is clear that there has been a seismic and most likely enduring shift in consumer behaviour away from traditional shopping centres to shopping online,” he said.

“With 18 websites and our leading digital capability, Accent Group is capitalising on this trend. We will continue to drive digital growth as the number one priority in our company.”

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