As we all know far too well at this point, there are a LOT of ways that COVID-19 has affected retail. Most of you had to close for a period of time. Some for a long period of time. And the future is unfortunately still up in the air.

Which means it’s all the more important to plan accordingly. We’ve tried to offer small businesses advice on how to deal with COVID and reopen properly. So today, let’s look at space planning in retail. Retail space planning is already a critical part of your operations. COVID has thrown retailers a few curveballs, however. You now have to consider how to create a great shopping experience while ensuring that it’s also safe. Get started with the tips below!

  1. Look at Your In-Store Data
  2. Understand Customer Behavior
  3. Add Sanitizing Stations and Room for Social Distancing
  4. Build Up Instead of Out
  5. Advertise Your Changes in Retail Space Planning
  6. Keep the Checkout Comfortable for Shoppers and Staff
  7. Designate an Area for Pickup Orders

1. Look at Your In-Store Data

Data is critical for any major business decision, including your retail space planning. Most small businesses can’t afford to make a big change that will have a negative impact on sales. So you want to have some of the basic statistics down before getting started with reorganizing your store.

  • Check with local laws. City and state capacity regulations are different everywhere, and they’re evolving. Maybe retail businesses are only allowed to operate at a certain percentage of their former capacity. If that’s the case, you’ll need to plan accordingly.
  • Measure your foot traffic. Check your retail point of sale to measure your in-store traffic, particularly your peak days and times. Try to incentivize visits for off-peak hours to maximize your daily visitors. Also consider areas of your store that get more traffic and reposition displays and shelving to keep your guests spread out.
  • Analyze your employee schedule. With a reduced number of guests in your store, you may need to reduce the number of staff members at any given time. Keep a close eye on any team members working the checkout area to make sure they’re not too close together or too close to customers.

2. Understand Customer Behavior

Likewise, you should have a good understanding of how your customers behave in your store. Pay extra attention to the spots that are heavily trafficked:

  • Entrance and exits – Add a sanitizing station at all entrances and exits and add a staff member at your door to monitor entry. You don’t want large groups or sudden bursts of entrants coming in at once.
  • Promotional areas – Keep your display areas with promotions and discounts spread out. Shoppers will gravitate towards these so be sure that they encourage proper social distancing.
  • Main traffic paths – Analyze the path that you’ve created in your store. Most retail spaces encourage shoppers to work clockwise around the store. Reroute any paths necessary to keep spacing optimal.
  • Checkout and cash wrap areas – Finally, keep customers distant from one another while at the checkout. And focus less on point of sale marketing to keep your items up front more sanitized.

3. Add Sanitizing Stations and Room for Social Distancing

In addition to keeping track of in-store traffic and behavior, it’s important to add some basic equipment to your store to help protect against the spread of COVID. In the age of a pandemic, part of the process of making the customer experience great is by making them feel safe and protected. The same, of course, goes for your team members.

  • Encourage appropriate social distancing with signage and reminders.
  • Advise/require shoppers to wear masks.
  • Add sanitizing stations around the store.
  • Routinely wipe down areas that get touched a lot, like self-checkout kiosks, cash register areas, and door handles.
  • Protect cashiers with plexiglass barriers between them and your guests checking out.

Again, the goal of this is to keep your staff safe and encourage customers to continue shopping with you. It’s the only way you’ll be able to continue growing your customer base in the long-term.

4. Build Up Instead of Out

Consider changing the structure of your shelving and displays. For many small businesses, space is a premium, especially in larger cities. In the past, it might have been possible to clutter your store with shelves and displays and force your shoppers to navigate around in a cramped space.

No longer. Small shops must find ways to maximize the amount of open space they keep for their customers to maintain adequate distance between each other.

One easy solution is to build more vertical shelving along the side walls. Though perhaps inconvenient, this allows you to free up more space in the center of the floor space. This, in turn, allows more shoppers into your store at any given time.

5. Advertise Your Changes in Retail Space Planning

You want your shoppers to know that you’ve made changes to improve the shopping experience in the age of COVID. So tell them! Use your social media channels and email marketing to reach past shoppers and let them know that your store is still a comfortable place to shop.

You can also advertise these changes at your storefront. This will help inform passersby about your store. Even if they don’t come in then, it’s more likely that they’ll keep you in mind and remember your brand.

And once inside, remind shoppers to follow the rules and protect all of those around them. An irresponsible shopper can alienate others, so make sure everyone is following city, state, and your own guidelines.

6. Keep the Checkout Comfortable for Shoppers and Staff

We mentioned the checkout space earlier, but it’s one of the most important areas of the store to consider during these efforts. Whether your staff checks out guests from the counter or from the retail floor, it’s important that they’re adequately protected.

The process of creating a safe checkout experience will vary between type of business and store layout, but there are some basics to keep in mind.

  • Consistently sanitize – Keep the area impeccably clean. It’s one of the areas of your store that gets the most attention so wipe it down frequently.
  • Add a contactless payment machineMobile payments were already the wave of the future. Now they’re basically a necessity. Luckily, they’re easy to set up with the right POS system.
  • Put up plexiglass – Add a physical barrier between your cashiers and shoppers to minimize the exchange of any fluids.
  • Wear gloves – Have your cashiers wear gloves while handling any cash, cards or receipts if necessary.
  • Add self-checkout areas – Self-checkout kiosks are another growing trend in retail. Now is an opportune time to add some. It will minimize contact between shoppers and staff and speed up the shopping process.
  • Encourage BOPIS – Adding curbside pickup with online orders or retail lockers is another way to keep shoppers away from each other and your staff. It still allows you to make sales without having to worry so much about in-store traffic.

7. Designate an Area for Pickup Orders

And if you do implement a great curbside pickup program, make it work well. Shoppers should know where to go and your team should be prepared to deliver their orders.

If you haven’t already implemented this, there may be some growing pains, but make sure to work on making it more efficient and convenient so that shoppers are more inclined to take advantage of it.

For more retail advice in general and about COVID-related matters in particular, check out the rest of our blog. And to learn more about how KORONA can help your business overcome some bumps in the road as you adapt to running a business in the world of COVID, give us a call. We have tools in place to help your business run more safely and efficiently.

We’ll also continue to put out more information and guides on how small businesses can deal with COVID. Below you’ll find more: