Retail stores in the era of COVID-19

Brick-and-mortar retail stores, especially non-chain businesses, have been significantly impacted by the spread of COVID-19, raising concerns about conducting in-person business while also keeping retail employees and customers safe. While many retailers have been able to use technology to replicate or replace in-store shopping experiences, physical storefronts are increasingly opening to meet customer needs, coordinate product returns, and allow for everyday business and customer service operations.

Retail store owners face complex challenges in ensuring the health and safety of shoppers in general store areas, fitting rooms, and store registers or payment stations, posing several significant questions:

  • How can we protect our retail store shoppers and employees from COVID-19?
  • Should we require the use of face masks in our retail store?
  • What do we do if a customer is not following our safety policies?
  • How can we minimize disease transmission risk if someone is ill or has had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?
  • What are the safest ways for retail customers to try on clothing or footwear?
  • How should we handle store returns?

With these questions in mind, AIHA has created this “Back to Work Safely: Guidance for the Retail Industry Guidance Document, 2nd edition” guide to offer practical advice for how to resume in-person retail business during COVID-19 safely. The guidance borrows from the latest advice given by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as expert advice from other leading health and government organizations.

These reopening guidelines share actional steps and recommendations to protect retail shoppers and retail employees, including information on the following key areas:

  • What should a retail store owner or employer do to protect themselves, their workers, and their customers?
    • Guidance on how to enable physical distancing in retail store environments, including solutions like e-commerce and contactless curbside pick-up to reduce the amount of in-store traffic
    • Communications tools and best practices to keep customers and employees aware of the latest safety protocols
    • Strategies to limit the amount of in-store shoppers
    • Recommended training for store employees to best communicate with customers in a safe and distanced way
    • Ways to rearrange store merchandise and displays with distancing in mind
    • How to disinfect merchandise, including apparel and paper/cardboard, plastic, or stainless steel items
    • Ventilation considerations for retail stores and how to position pedestal or hard-mounted fans
    • Cleaning practices and disinfection routines to keep customers safe from COVID-19
    • Considerations for restroom or bathroom facilities, including cleaning procedures and the recommended equipment for handwashing and drying
  • What should a retail store employee or customer do to minimize the transmission of COVID-19?
    • Self-monitoring best practices
    • Recommended PPE for retail store employees and shoppers
    • Best practices to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 while shopping, including whether to hold your items or place them in a cart
    • Ways to support a retail business without visiting it in-person
    • What to do if you feel the urge to sneeze or cough in a retail store

Download our “Back to Work Safely: Guidance for the Retail Industry Guidance Document, 2nd edition” guidance document today to learn how to reopen or shop at a retail business during COVID-19 safely.