Independent retail book stores will survive because shoppers like myself want to physically browse books before buying. Some books may be virtually browsed on Amazon, though. Ebay also is a good market for books. I have purchased innumerable books from indie stores, Amazon and Ebay, and directly from university publishers. Everyone says that brick and mortar stores provide personal service and an experience. Bunk. The store owner or associate usually does not know their stock that well and never knows what a particular customer wants. The only experience is indifference. Some owners stare at their customers, or feel that they owe them a living as entitlement. (Don't leave here without a book.)
Maybe if stores regularly brought authors in for readings and signings and also hosted book discussions. Have sales! More remainder books at lower prices. Do special orders. Even offer snacks.
I am a picky customer for most consumer things, especially clothes, books, etc. Pickiness depends on whether the item is essential (necessary) or very non-essential, and the supply of them. That's partly why I strongly prefer to see the actual product in a store, not online.
Picky customers are most likely picky about price, though I have no evidence. Lower prices help, but not so low that it raises suspicions.
I agree that many stores and business should not spend much money or none attracting these customers. Some people (including me?) are just too picky for their own good.
Many customers do not want direct contact with associates, even before COVID. They want to see their faces, not with masks on. But since the masks are required, I suspect that the sales pitches will not be as effective, perhaps ineffective, futile, also because softer voices are muffled by the mask. Customers, including myself, look at a person's face (especially mouth and eyes) to see expressions and detect sincerity. The eyes do not lie. The deaf know this.
Secondly, the overhead music is often so loud and annoying that customers cannot hear the associates anyway. Seriously. One young lady once told me that she can't even hear herself think. I agree.
Thirdly, customers in big box stores do not expect associates to know a lot of what they sell. If they do, it is a big plus, especially in electronics and high-end things. When I worked in retail, management told me nothing at all and they lost sales. I doubt that contests will work because associates will invite their friends to buy from them. Role playing is fun but it is not taken seriously. Like acting.
In small local stores and restaurants, the owners often do not seem to want customers, judging from the appearances.