As retailers prepare to reopen their stores, they are taking proactive steps to ensure the safety of both their staff and customers. One potentially effective measure being considered is the concept of “quarantining” products that have been handled by shoppers. Retailers understand the importance of minimizing the risk of virus transmission and are seeking innovative ways to create a safe shopping environment.

Waterstones, a popular bookseller, has already committed to quarantining items that have been handled but not purchased. Any book that is touched by a customer will be removed from the shop floor and placed in quarantine for 72 hours. This approach ensures that any potential virus particles on the books become inactive before they are returned to the shelves. By taking this extra precaution, Waterstones aims to protect both their customers and employees.

Fashion stores, where clothing items are frequently tried on, are likely to adopt a similar approach. Due to the higher risk of picking up virus samples, it is important to quarantine these items before they are made available for purchase. However, this presents significant logistical challenges, as a large percentage of shop floor stock may need to be quarantined at any given time. Retailers will need to carefully consider the best way to manage this process effectively.

Government guidance advises retailers to think carefully about whether fitting rooms should be reopened. Fitting rooms pose challenges in terms of safety, as they require additional procedures to manage clothes that have been tried on. One possible solution is to delay the return of tried-on clothes to the shop floor, allowing them to be properly cleaned and sanitized. Thorough cleaning of fitting rooms between each use may also prove challenging, depending on the level of foot traffic in the store.

Returns will also need to be handled cautiously. Any items that are returned by customers should be kept separate from other stock until any potential virus traces on them have become inactive. This ensures that there is no risk of contamination from returned items.

Shopping malls are also taking measures to ensure the safety of their visitors. Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, a renowned mall operator, plans to implement one-way systems, monitor foot traffic using cameras to control crowds, and create clear 2-meter-distancing markers. Extra cleaning protocols will be put in place, and parking spaces will be reduced to allow for alternate parking bays, maintaining social distancing.

Scott Parsons, the regional managing director for the UK and Italy at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, emphasizes the importance of getting these measures right. The safety of everyone entering the shopping centers is of utmost priority, and it is crucial for visitors to feel confident that their well-being is being prioritized at every point.

Another company, Landsec, part-owner of Bluewater shopping center, is also taking a similar approach. They are implementing floor stickers to mark safe distances, providing new sanitizing stations, and managing queues with security and concierge staff. These additional measures aim to create a safe shopping experience for customers.

Overall, retailers are meticulously planning their store reopenings to ensure the safety of their customers and employees. By implementing measures such as quarantining handled products and following government guidelines, they aim to create a safe shopping environment. Taking these precautions will help instill confidence in consumers, encouraging them to return to physical stores and support businesses during these challenging times.

Useful Links:
1. Guidelines for Retail Store Reopening during COVID-19
2. Best Practices for Ensuring Safety in Shopping Malls