For the second time in 2020, Victorian retailers are reopening their stores following lockdown. Having experienced the impact of a second surge, and with little time to waste ahead of peak retail season, the stakes this time are even higher, writes Gordana Redzovski, Vice President, APAC at Vend.
Many of the state’s retailers have relied on an eCommerce presence to stay active over recent months, and while a return to bricks-and-mortar shopping is exciting, relieving and much-needed for so many, a host of guidelines and measures must be adhered to. If your store reopened its doors this week, or is about to do so, here’s how you can create a Covid-safe plan, communicate with your customers and build a post-lockdown sales strategy.
Taking stock and getting ready
While the temptation to reopen as soon as possible might be overwhelming, before you can make a practical and safe return, there are various considerations and requirements. Conduct an inventory count to get a handle on what you have, where it is and confirm that it’s logged on your stock control system. When you know what you have, decide what items to sell and promote by running performance reports that determine the products that may have the greatest demand when shoppers return to stores. It’s likely, too, that some overseas suppliers might not be able to deliver new stock in a timely manner, so think about diversifying them to mitigate any interruptions.
So that your store runs smoothly, ensure that all your services, supplies, and technologies are on. Confirm that utilities such as electricity, water and WiFi are working and reinstate any that were disconnected. Make sure your POS and retail management systems are good to go. If you have a cloud POS you can trust, it will be accessible and up to date, even if you have not been in the store. Perhaps most importantly before you reopen, you’ll also need to create your Covid-safe plan.
Creating a Covid-safe plan
While restrictions are easing and Victoria’s retailers are reopening, it’s imperative to exercise extreme care and protect your staff and customers. In line with a Covid-safe reopening, display signage that outlines any compulsory guidelines or policies and add markers or decals on your floor, particularly near the checkout, so people know where to stand and what to do. Sanitise shelves, racks and other surfaces often and make protective supplies like hand sanitiser and masks readily available so people feel comfortable.
If your store is small or heavily-stocked, you might need to temporarily re-configure the layout to avoid crowding. You may also want to accept only contactless forms of payment, limit access to fitting rooms, have staggered ‘slots’ to avoid overcrowding or even take customers’ temperature before permitting them to enter. Try to create workplace ‘bubbles’ to reduce staff movement. For example, one member of staff could look after the counter, one tidying shelves and racks and another at the door monitoring flow in and out of the shop. Without your staff you can’t possibly implement your plan or deliver the delightful experiences that so many Victorian shoppers have been missing for the last few months. So ensure your team knows what is expected of them and when. Restrictions are fluid, and could ease or tighten again quickly, so keep a close eye on announcements so that you’re in a position to adapt quickly if need be.
Just as important as the plan itself, is ensuring you’re effectively and regularly communicating it with your customers. A reopening of retail stores isn’t a return to ‘normal’, and there will be new procedures customers will need to follow – it’s your job to communicate the steps you’re taking and what rules apply to them, like the mandatory wearing of masks. Keep them updated regularly. As soon as something changes, whether that’s your opening hours, customer capacity or something else entirely, ensure your customers know.
A sophisticated sales strategy
While health and safety is, understandably, high priority, making sales and delighting your customers is what your business relies on. Especially now, as the peak retail season approaches. The reopening won’t immediately result in trading levels akin to pre-Covid, so you’ll need to implement a sales strategy that caters to every customer, on every platform.
While ‘omnichannel’ may sound like a strategy for the future, it’s a strategy for the present, through which an effective, targeted eCommerce presence enhances and extends the delightful experiences and beautiful products on your shop floor. For example, list your in-store inventory online, implement loyalty schemes, introduce click and collect and use targeted marketing to promote your products, shout about your reopening, detail your Covid-safe plan and reconnect with your customers as Victoria’s retail reopening dawns. Retail won’t go back to ‘normal’ for some time, but through an omnichannel sales strategy, you’ll be able to serve those who are ready to return to shop floors and those who prefer omnichannel shopping for the time being.
Despite restrictions lifting, it’s important to remain not only cautious and considered but targeted and effective as you look to reopen your retail doors. After a second extended lockdown, every day matters, but by ensuring you’re prepared, have a watertight Covid-safe plan and a technology-empowered omnichannel sales strategy behind you, you’ll be ready to make up for lost time and delight your customers in a safe environment as the busy retail season approaches.
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