Re-Opening Your Retail Business After COVID19: Everything You Need to Know
Re-Opening Your Retail Business After COVID19
Everyone, both business and consumer, hoped and prayed that COVID19 would be over by now. However, as COVID cases surge in many states, it’s become clear that we’re all in this for the long haul.
Small retailers have been hit the hardest by the off and on lockdowns, changing regulations, and safety issues created by the pandemic.
If you’ve reached a point where you can’t afford for your business to stay closed any longer, or you’re itching to reopen, here’s what you need to do before you open your doors again.
Research, Research, Research
Before you even start the re-opening process, you need to do your research. Federal, state and local laws can have a huge impact on how, or if, you conduct your business.
Does your state have a mask mandate in place? Or a limit on the number of customers you can have per square foot? What about hazard pay requirements?
You need to research all of these very carefully before you begin, to ensure that your business remains compliant. Reopening, only to get closed down or fined due to a COVID19 restriction violation, would defeat the purpose.
Make a COVID19 Plan With Employees
Once you’ve researched what your business can and cannot do, you need to make a plan with your employees. Whether you try to get your old staff back or hire fresh faces is up to your discretion.
We recommend speaking with your old staff members first. If they aren’t otherwise employed by now, they might want their old positions back. However, listen to their concerns. Be empathetic, and see how you can act on their worries.
Whether that’s setting up plastic barriers in front of cash registers, requiring gloves or Q-tips for pin pad transactions, suspending the use of cash, or something else entirely, do what you can to ease your employee’s concerns. Stay proactive, empathetic, and informed.
Deep Clean Everything
Once you and your employees have come to an agreement, the time has come to prepare your store for re-opening. That should include a thorough deep cleaning, especially if you closed your doors due to contamination concerns.
Dust, clean, and disinfect every single surface, with extra focus on high traffic areas. Cleanse what pieces of inventory you can feasibly cleanse, and figure out what you might need to discard.
Whether you do all of this yourself or hire a commercial janitorial company to do it for you is up to you. However, given the depth and scope of the project, hiring the pros might be the best call.
Establish Rules and Consequences
Whether your state has clear guidance on coronavirus regulations for businesses or not, you need to decide what rules you wish to set. It’s also up to you to enforce those rules.
If you set up tape markings for social distancing or mark one-way lanes through store corridors, there needs to be some consequence for not following them. Aside from getting the stink-eye from your employees, that is. If you mandate masks in an area where masks are not required by the government, then you must be prepared to stand firm on that mandate. Even if it means lost business.
You should also establish rules with your employees about working while sick. This includes what they should do if they test positive or believe they’ve been exposed. All your efforts to prevent exposure from customers will mean nothing if one of your employees rolls into work infected.
Stay Safe While Staying Open
Staying safe while staying open refers to multiple issues. It means both keeping your store safe and keeping your employees safe.
How can you keep your store safe, aside from establishing rules for patrons and employees? Set regular cleaning schedules, and keep employees up to date on their cleaning responsibilities. You might also consider adjusting your operating hours to allow for better customer flow and less crowding.
However, even with rules and consequences established, some people won’t want to comply. The unfortunate truth is that many customers do not like businesses telling them what they can and cannot do. Some people might become violent when employees stand firm on company rules.
Training your staff in de-escalation tactics might be a wise call. Additionally, having a number for a security service or the local authorities handy might give them an extra bit of peace of mind.
When to Re-Evaluate
The time may come, unfortunate as it is, that you have to reconsider re-opening. If your business suffers too much from standing firm on health regulations, the traffic isn’t there, or you can’t find a way to keep your business open safely, you might need to re-evaluate.
Ideally, you should do this before you start the re-opening process, but it’s worth revisiting every now and then. Evaluate your current business model thoroughly. See if there is any way you can pandemic-proof what you do. Whether it’s opening an online version of the store, or finding a safer way to provide services, it helps to examine your options.
Sound Complicated? Let’s Simplify
When you consider re-opening your business after COVID19, you should first research your local requirements. You should also take some time to evaluate your business model for any changes you can make before reaching out to employees and making a return plan.
Once you have your staff, make sure they’re well-trained in your store’s policies and the consequences for not adhering to them. Education will help keep them and your customers safe.
Re-opening for business, especially during and immediately after a pandemic, can be stressful. Hopefully, our guide provided you a roadmap you can follow.
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