A COVID Perspective: The Reality of Retail in a Pandemic

3 min read

A few weeks ago, Dr. Guskey shared an experience she had when shopping at Aldi. She was planning on purchasing three different versions of the same product for her grandson so he could pick the one he liked the most and she would simply return the other two. Before completing her purchase, an Aldi employee informed her of the new store policy since the pandemic, that any returns they receive are to be THROWN AWAY! As a mindful consumer, Dr. Guskey made the decision to simply choose one and save Aldi the loss. 

How many other retailers do you think have adopted the same or similar practices since the pandemic? And if many consumers are not aware of this new policy, what other policies could they be blind to while shopping? 

Consumer $ense spoke to a Product Specialist who works for a luxury brand retailer in a shopping mall to better understand her perspective of working for a retailer during a pandemic and what key pieces of inside information consumers should know before they shop to be more mindful of their habits. 

How have job responsibilities changed since reopening? 

Simply put, she stated, “It’s not even the same job anymore”. With new policies comes new responsibilities, including enforcing the mask policy (which must be worn OVER not under the nose) throughout the entire day to consumers as well as rotating rigid cleaning procedures.

What exactly is the retailer doing to ensure consumer health and safety?

A 15% capacity must be maintained in the store, which limits the number of people in the building to a whopping 17 (including employees). In addition, the employees must clean high-touch surfaces everyday for one hour and every fitting room is sanitized after use for 15 minutes. The register is also cleaned after each use and every accessory that is tried on by a consumer must be either steam cleaned at a high temperature or quarantined for 48 hours. 

These new health and safety standards came into play as retailers attempts to maintain a safe shopping environment, so consumers feel comfortable returning to in-store shopping.

Insight CEO Greg Petro commented on the current state of how consumers feel about shopping in store:  “Retailers need to be aware that while people are shopping and there is definitely pent-up demand, many consumers are still very much afraid to be in-store and to try products or use dressing rooms. We are seeing increasing Coronavirus case numbers in states across the country, and retailers are definitely solidifying their COVID-19 policies to help customers feel safer, including mandating masks be worn, limiting people in-store and conducting temperature checks. As stores continue to operate during the pandemic, it is critical that retailers communicate with their customers, understand expectations when it comes to safety, and simultaneously offer the products they need.” 

All in all, retailers WANT consumers to feel safe and are doing everything they can to ensure their cleaning standards are being upheld. Consumers can do their part by adhering to these standards for their safety and those of the employees.

Has product inventory been greatly impacted by the pandemic?

Just like many retailers who have been struggling to keep essential products on their shelves due to high demand, luxury brands are experiencing a similar phenomenon. According to Market Watch, “Since the pandemic has brought summer vacations to a near halt compared to prior years, people who saved up for a summer vacation and find themselves unable to safely travel are using that money to splurge on luxury products instead.” 

In turn, this spike in demand has caused an increase in prices as well. This luxury brand in particular has seen a decrease in their stock as they struggle to keep certain items on the shelf. 

What are some pieces of information that you would like consumers to take with them as they shop?

The number one thing she emphasized: please kindly adhere to the mask policy. The employees are doing their best to respectfully remind consumers of this crucial new policy that has been put in place by many corporate businesses. If the retailer fails to comply, they may be subject to closure. 

Also, patience is key! It is important to retain patience when standing in line outside of the store. Especially in many small retailers like those in a shopping mall, the space inside is already very limited and the capacity limit is set for the safety of consumers AND the employees. 

If you’re really crunched for time, this employee recommends calling the store before you go to see if they will let you come in at a specific time or if you know exactly what you’re looking for, they will honor curbside pickup (because they probably will!)

Due to the vast cleaning protocols that these stores must undergo, the employees ask that you only try something on if you are seriously considering purchasing it. This way, the sanitization process can be minimized and cleaning products can be used where most necessary. If possible, try to come into the store with an awareness of what you are looking for.

And finally- less is more! Shopping is a great social experience, however during these times it may be best to bring as few people as possible with you to help minimize the number of people in the store. Additionally, fewer people in your party allows for a quicker wait time in line and a better experience for other consumers!

Just like everyone else, retailers are doing their best to provide consumers with the safest, most “normal” shopping experience possible despite the state of the world. From a retailer’s perspective, keep this information in mind next time you shop your favorite store!

What other employee perspectives would you want to hear about? Let us know in the comments below! 

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