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Retail Is Anxious to Reopen, But Here’s What it Needs to Do First

Retail is prepping its playbook for restoring stores to revenue-generating status.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the National Retail Federation (NRF) released a “Blueprint for Shopping Safe” on Monday that outlines a phased-in approach to reopening retail across the U.S.

The plan urges governors to issue uniform, statewide protocols for retailers to adopt as they reopen stores and work to keep employees and customers safe.

“As conversations turn to the reopening of the economy, retailers are uniquely situated to provide input because we’ve been on both sides of the stay-at-home orders,” RILA president Brian Dodge said. “Groceries, pharmacies and other retailers that have remained open have implemented practices and protocols that are keeping employees and communities safe.

“The blueprint released today builds off those successful operating practices,” he added. “Our goal is for the safe reopen of retail and we want everyone–policymakers, employees and our customers–to know that the industry is ready to shop safe.”

The blueprint was developed in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, as well as benchmarking by leading retailers, with a focus on ensuring the health and wellness of employees and customers. Retailers have been learning from each other throughout this crisis, sharing leading practices and protocols to keep stores clean and sanitized, and keeping customers and employees as safe as possible, RILA and NRF said.

“Retailers’ number-one priority is customer safety, employee safety, and store and facility environment safety,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Since the onset of the pandemic, retailers have been following the guidance of CDC and other public health experts and are taking additional measures to keep their employees and customers safe.”

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The blueprint details three phases for reopening retail. Phase One is to allow e-commerce, contactless curbside pickup, which in many cases has been in practice, and in-home delivery.

Phase Two calls for reopening stores to the public, with social distancing protocols and reduced occupancy, while phase three calls for establishing protection, then lifting all restrictions.

“Consistent guidelines without overburdensome regulatory schemes across all levels of government is critical,” Shay said. “As an industry, we are committed to working with the administration, Congressional and state leaders, and the professional medical community to help all families shop safe.”

In the U.K., the British Retail Council (BRC) has worked with its members and external stakeholders to produce recommendations that will assist retailers to facilitate the introduction of social distancing measures. The detailed recommendations cover areas such as limiting the number of entry and exit points into and out of stores and limiting the number of customers in the store at any time.

Stores should consider whether temporary barriers should be available in case it is necessary to prevent people joining a queue and to place markings outside the store to educate shoppers on correct six-foot spacing. Retailers should also try to schedule deliveries to avoid crowding in delivery areas, the recommendations stated.

Inside stores, BRC said there should be cleaning stations at the front and retailer should install floor markings to facilitate compliance with social distancing.