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Nordstrom and Express Rework Store Operations With Safety in Mind

Now that the industry is transitioning out of pandemic panic and into retail’s reopening and recovery, players in the sector are laying out their plans to put stores back to work.

In a blog post Monday, Nordstrom said its reopening will happen in phases, similar to how companies like Chico’s and Macy’s are restoring their brick-and-mortar operations.

“The past several months have been unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, and we’re working hard to evolve so we can continue to show up in a meaningful way for you, our employees and communities,” CEO Erik Nordstrom and his brother Pete, president and chief brand officer, wrote. The duo reiterated the retailer’s expanded post-pandemic convenience-focused service offerings like contactless curbside options for order pickup and returns, similar to initiatives from Coach and Kate Spade’s owner Tapestry.

The company, they said, is taking a “thoughtful” approach to re-opening stores according to state and local guidelines.

Nordstrom’s safety protocols mirror the stipulations laid out in the Blueprint recently co-developed by the National Retail Federation and Retail Industry Leaders Association. Nordstrom employees will undergo regular health screenings, and wear face coverings, which will be available for customers as well. Stores will limit the number of employees and customers inside each location to maintain social distancing, clean and sanitize more frequently, and modify fitting rooms to minimize density.

Though in-store events and high-touch services have become a common feature in retail, and especially in Local stores, Nordstrom said these are on pause for the moment, or will be adapted with safety in mind. Merchandise that has been tried on will remain off the sales floor for a certain period of time out of an abundance of caution. Even store hours will be limited off the bat, in order for staff to accommodate the new operational logistics.

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Nordstrom and Express plan to have hundreds of stores back in operation this month.
Express stores have been closed since March. John Raoux/AP/Shutterstock

On May 4, fast-fashion chain Express shared its re-opening strategy, outlining plans to have roughly 300 stores back online by Memorial Day, including locations that opened in Georgia and South Carolina last week. The company is also taking a phased approach, with re-openings and staffing calibrated to mall traffic and demand.

Express will roll out curbside pickup at locations in Columbus, Ohio, and Chicago to test the service, with expansion based on customer feedback. The retailer will also provide contact-free payment options and introduce an “enhanced BOPIS” experience in each reopened store.

Through its Expressway Forward initiative, the company has also invested in virtual design and merchandising and expanded its digital stylist live chat feature for real-time wardrobe assistance.