3 ways retail stores could be taking advantage of the ‘new normal’
With shops across the UK boarded up for weeks and many businesses worrying whether or not they’ll be able to survive our global unexpected detour into lockdown, it’s hard times for business owners.
However, in recent weeks lockdown restrictions have begun to lift and life has slowly started to return to the UK.
On June 15th, the UK government has stated it will be legally possible for retail stores to open once again to the public. Even so, for most retail businesses, it’s going to be a while before things get ‘back to normal’.
But there are at least signs on the horizon that reveal there might be an immediate future for them, even if it’s going to be one that looks a little different to what they’re used to.
Over the next few months and perhaps even into the new year, we will be living through a period of significant adaptation and this is going to be no more profound than in the retail sector, where human contact was traditionally unavoidable.
But with a lot of creative thinking and a little investment, there are a few ways the retail sector could be taking advantage of this ‘new normal’.
1. Directional arrows
Many supermarkets have adopted an arrow system to direct one-way traffic around up and down their aisles.
This is advantageous for several reasons - it encourages shoppers to explore the entire store and be exposed to items they might not otherwise have considered and it allows for a more ordered, predictable, and manageable flow of people.
It doesn’t even need to be arrows on the floor either. Consider using scrolling LED signs suspended above shoppers, for example, as an affordable alternative.
2. Number of shoppers
Depending on the size of your store, you’re only going to be able to accommodate a certain number of customers at any one time. This means you’re going to need to let shoppers know how many are currently in store, not only for their own benefit but so that you know when to let more people in.
An external, window-based LED or LCD display would be ideal for this, as it could give customers some idea as to how long they might have to wait.
Queues are going to become increasingly common while we figure out together how to make this work, but if there’s one thing the British are good at - it’s waiting in line.
3. A traffic light system
One of the major considerations that retail stores are going to have to make in the post-lockdown world is customer traffic control. The days of supermarket aisles being full of shoulder-to-shoulder shoppers fighting over the last toilet roll are long behind us. For the foreseeable future, we’re all going to need to stay 2 metres apart, and that means staggering the number of customers allowed in at any one time.
You could employ a security guard to do this, but it would be a far more elegant solution to install a traffic light system. LED traffic lights can be installed to direct customers in-store in a similar manner to traffic on the roads and are clear, affordable, and attractive enough to blend into most design aesthetics without coming across as garish. For industrial sectors, meanwhile, Andon boards and beacons can be utilised to keep workers safe and alert.
There’s no telling exactly when restrictions will ease entirely. It could be weeks, it could be months and it could even be years.
However, if businesses are willing to make that initial investment and find new ways to help communicate with their customers, social distancing is something that might actually lead to a more productive and profitable future.