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Welcome back: 4 tips for reopening stores

Delivery COVID
Delivery COVID

It’s been several weeks since restrictions lifted and bricks-and-mortar stores began reopening and one thing’s for certain – despite the need to queue up and use hand sanitiser at most entry points, it’s clear that Australians are keen to return to their local shopping centres. 

In fact, since Mother’s Day, foot traffic has been steadily increasing on average 26.28 per cent a week and it continues to rise, according to data from software company Skyfii.

It’s been interesting to see how different retailers have responded to the new health and safety concerns of their customers and staff. Many stores like Apple, Cotton On and Lululemon are limiting the numbers of people within their store, others like Mecca are taking customers’ temperatures, while a few are giving customers the opportunity to book private appointments, such as Honey Birdette and Camilla and Marc.

However, others are failing to put in appropriate measures to encourage social distancing, putting their customers’ and employees’ health and safety at risk. While it may have only been a couple of months since the peak of the pandemic, it’s very likely that customers will be looking out for those retailers prioritising the health of their people well into the future.

Thinking of reopening your stores? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Clearly communicate with your customers

Skyfii recently conducted research into how willing people are to enter a physical store or shopping centre. According to the study, customers are struggling to find up-to-date information from retailers around how they’ve changed how they operate, such as reopening only a certain number of stores and working within limited trading hours. 

It’s important that shopping centres and retailers remember to update their website, communicate via enewsletters, social media and in-store signage. 

“You have to think not only about your operational changes, but how you communicate to your customer so they know you’re open and how you’re going to operate,” pointed out John Rankin, chief operating officer at Skyfii. 

2. Build a containment plan

Earlier this month, when a McDonald’s employee in Victoria was tested positive for coronavirus, 12 stores were promptly shut down so they could undergo a deep clean. For all businesses these days, it’s a very real possibility that a positive case might take place within their stores and it would be wise for retailers to create a strategy should that occur. 

3. Optimise your staff

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns right now for retailers is ensuring they have the appropriate staff levels in-store to not only deal with their usual role of selling products, but also manage social distancing. 

“Say you usually have five employees in a store, now you might need 10 to introduce a line at the entry and monitor the number of people within the store or help additional service staff at the checkout – but do you need them for the full eight hours of a day? How do you use data to better inform and predict how you can optimise your store?” pointed out Rankin. 

4. Combine tech with the human touch

There’s some great technology available right now to help businesses manage things like contact tracing, routine cleaning procedures and occupancy and social distancing levels within stores. However, it’s still important to combine technology with human intuition and knowledge, especially in the current climate.

“The guidelines keep changing. The combination of tech and that human element can help [retailers] respond more quickly to the guidelines as they loosen up, or potentially, tighten. I think everyone’s optimistic about the world becoming a better place and returning to normal operations, but there is every risk out there that we could have another turn for the worse,” said Rankin. 

“We see value in a human element. How do I influence someone or change the way we operate our venue, but do it in real-time so the staff in the store can actually use data to respond very quickly to a peak or a spike of people being in that venue?”

To find out more about Skyfii’s OccupancyNow Tool, visit:

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