Posted May 26, 2020

Retail During and After Covid-19

By Grace Tino

Coronavirus has truly reshaped the country, leaving many job seekers lost amongst a changing landscape. Shutdowns across every state have caused a drastic change in businesses of all industries. Many companies, in response to lower consumer demand as well as facility shutdowns, have been forced to lay off employees. According to a recent survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April, and unemployment rose to 14.7%. The BLS attributed this large rise to the effects of COVID-19, and the various shutdowns and safety measures that have been affecting the profitability of businesses across various industries. However, with case numbers now leveling off, many states are beginning the processes of reopening their businesses to the public. Retail has been a sector particularly subject to the impact of COVID-19, from e-commerce demand to restaurants and storefronts finding way to keep business going while eliminating contact with customers. Numerous states have begun the process of reopening, and for many retail businesses, this means rebuilding their teams to prepare for returning customers. However, the pandemic has generated a lot of concern and uncertainty surrounding the safety of retail workers.

Whether you're working behind the scenes in a warehouse, or looking to work in a storefront, safety precautions will be a huge focus for retailers as they open. In April, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) released guidelines for the safety of retail workers in essential businesses. OHSA has also released tips for retailers and other businesses such as manufacturing, specifically for as they participate in the gradual reopening across the country. Commonalities in recommended safety precautions included social distancing practices of six feet apart, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), routine handwashing or use of sanitizer, and frequent checks on employee health.

For retail businesses specifically, OHSA points out actions that stores can take to protect their employees. For example, the administration recommends that customers be directed to self-checkout lanes as much as possible. At checkout lanes, customer service counters, and other areas where customers will be interacting with employees, physical barriers such as plexiglass walls are the best precaution to protect workers. To enforce social distancing within stores, retailers can install signs indicating 6 feet apart in lines, as well as arrows directing traffic flow down aisles.

Retail workers themselves are encouraged to use protective face masks as well as gloves when in areas with customers, even when it is not mandated by law. Other safety steps retail employees can take include frequent disinfection of counters and other surfaces, use of hand sanitizer, and avoidance of touching their face and eyes. While these precautions are already familiar to essential workers, many retail employees reentering the work force as other forms of retail businesses open will have to quickly adapt to safety protocol.

OHSA is not the only organization keeping the safety of retail workers at high importance. The National Retail Federation (NRF) launched Operation Open Doors late last month; this consists of operational guidelines for retail businesses to follow as they restart business during states' reopening's. The guide breaks retail into four key sectors for consideration: health and safety, people and personnel, supply chain and logistics, and liability. Essentially, the NRF designed the guide to be an interactive roadmap towards successful reopening, providing everything from a checklist of reopening necessities to a state reopening tracker. These are fantastic resources for currently employed essential workers, as well as those looking to reenter the retail workforce, as they outline the gradual reopening phases including when to begin hiring, who to hire, and how workers can stay safe.

The pandemic will likely have a lasting impact on consumers and their shopping habits. Due to storefront closures across the country, shoppers have largely turned their attention to online retailers. During the month of March alone, e-commerce as seen a boom. Numerous sectors across the retail space have seen a 74% year over year increase in online sales as compared to March 2018. More importantly, however, consumers are valuing cleanliness as much as the store operations are. Successful reopening practices not only consider the safety of retail workers, but the safety of the consumers as well. How can retail employees do their part in enticing concerned customers back to their stores?

The key to bringing consumers back to stores is a combination of cleanliness, customer service, and trust. It is important for retailers to recognize that recovery after the pandemic will be slow, as the consumer is going to be approaching shopping cautiously. It could be a long time before retail returns to any sense of "normal." For the retail worker, safety precautions mentioned above will continue to be of utmost importance, even after reopening. Cleanliness and safety for workers is a foundation of trust with scared customers as well, as they cautiously begin shopping in brick-and-mortar shops again. If you are looking to re-enter retail after the pandemic, now is the best time to start looking. Retailers are currently looking to form their reopening teams! Joining a retail team during reopening is a fantastic way to contribute to a meaningful project, as well as gain valuable experience during one of the strangest times retail as seen. AllRetailJobs offers thousands of opportunities with actively hiring retailers that need your hard work and dedication now more than ever before.