Can retailers ensure stores are coronavirus-safe?
Suspending in-store sampling, not accepting reusable cups, sending letters to customers and deep cleaning are some steps retailers are taking to reassure customers it’s safe to shop amid the coronavirus outbreak.
A Coresight Research survey taken from February 25 to 26 found nearly three-quarters of U.S. consumers would stay away from stores if the outbreak worsens. On Feb. 26, the U.S. had 60 confirmed cases and the first death was reported on Feb. 29. As of Sunday night, cases surpassed 500 and the death toll reached 21.
Costco has suspended free samples from some stores in response. Trader Joe’s is now handing out samples individually instead of keeping pre-plated samples on a platter.
Starbucks has suspended the use of personal cups while announcing it is increasing cleaning and sanitizing across stores. Store teams were given protocols “on how to report and support anyone that may express they’ve been impacted by the virus, including store closure decision making support.”
On March 6, Starbucks closed one of its downtown Seattle stores for sanitization after an employee tested positive for the virus.
Apple, according to Business Insider, is increasing the presence of cleaning staff, installing hand sanitizer stations in stores and asking employees to wipe down demo devices and surfaces more frequently.
At the Japanese beauty store, Shibuyala, on St. Marks Place in Manhattan, all associates this weekend could be seen wearing face masks.
On Saturday, Nordstrom’s top leaders, Erik and Pete Nordstrom, wrote a letter to customers to inform them that the retailer has increased the “frequency and extent” of daily store cleanings, added hand sanitizers and is taking steps to ensure employees have the resources to stay healthy. The brothers wrote, “We are confident our stores continue to be safe, and we remain open for business.”
Nordstrom’s home state, Washington, has endured most of the U.S. deaths to date and retailers may face strict containment measures, including store closures, in heavily hit areas.
One labor challenge may be dealing with hourly employees who come to work, regardless of symptoms, so they don’t lose pay. Amazon.com along with Google and Facebook have vowed to pay hourly workers as they encourage other office staffers to work from home. Walmart spokesperson Jami Lamontagne recently told RetailWire that the retailer is prepared to adjust its “business operations and policies, such as waiving absences, as appropriate.”
- How Many US Consumers Are Changing Their Behavior Due to the Coronavirus Outbreak? – Coresight Research
- Retail Landlords Face New Challenge as Coronavirus May Deter Shoppers – The Wall Street Journal
- Coronavirus panic spreads: Costco is pulling free samples over COVID-19 – USA Today
- Trader Joe’s won’t stop serving free samples despite coronavirus outbreak, but it’s making employees change how they hand them out – Business Insider
- Managing Through the Dynamics of COVID-19 – Starbucks
- Letter to partners: Update on COVID-19 preparedness – Starbucks
- The Nordstroms Send Personal Letter to Customers About Coronavirus Precautions – Footwear News
- Apple has increased cleaning staff in stores, installed hand sanitizer stations, and has been asking employees to wipe down demo products more frequently as a cautionary measure to combat the spreading coronavirus – Business Insider
- Will a lack of paid sick leave cost retailers as the coronavirus outbreak spreads? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What steps should retailers take that will be most beneficial in reducing shopping anxieties tied to the coronas outbreak? Do you expect that stores will be able to comply fully with directives from headquarters?