During the lockdown, the essential businesses that have remained open have begun to experience the problems that occur when continuing operation during a time of social distance. No longer can items be picked up, considered, and placed back upon the shelf by customers as they would have done previously, at least not without being sanitised afterwards. Shelving must now accommodate for customers standing at a considerable distance and checkouts must protect employees from exposure to potential infections. In dealing with these problems, they are gaining a perspective on how the post-pandemic shopping experience will change for other businesses as they begin to reopen.
The physical design of many retailers and businesses that operate on the high street simply cannot continue to operate without being redesigned and renovated. For some businesses, such as theatres and cinemas, there is great cynicism that they will be able to operate at all, given the nature of their seating and operation.
However, at a time of uncertainty, there are some that are beginning to lead the way, overhauling their stores with new designs, and demonstrating that there are potential ways to adapt the high street beyond the coronavirus lockdowns. Some cinemas, for example, are reviving the classic drive-in format, installing outdoor projectors to spaces and screening movies to socially-distanced audience members in their cars.
Remodelling for Space
Retail furniture companies, such as Crown Display, are seeing increasing levels of requests for custom furniture, designs that support new styles of shopping. Already, many towns and cities around the UK are witnessing cafes and restaurants redesign their seating. Tables are being moved to different distances and larger areas, where possible, are being set up outside. Outdoor, well-spaced seating is likely to become hugely important in allowing businesses to deliver their services. Since it is also weather dependent, sales of heaters and canopies are rising. There are also calls for more pedestrianised areas within high streets, to allow even more area dedicated to shops, while also encouraging customers to shop safely and comfortably.
There are many services that are having to be replaced entirely, such as the ability to try on clothing at certain stores. Already signs are being placed asking customers to refrain from touching stock, meaning that the idea of wearing clothing and returning it to the shelf is impossible.
Another result of COVID-19’s impact is the decline in cash transactions. Many businesses have begun prioritising card, specifically contactless payments, so as to remove the risk of handling currency. This will put businesses who have already made the transition to contactless support further ahead than those who prioritise cash. Some businesses around the UK had already removed cash altogether, improving their efficiency and security.
If you are a store owner, rethinking your layout from a cautious customer perspective is now key. Every item of your store, from doors and changing rooms to clothing rails and greeting card units, will need to be reconsidered. While there is hope that the lockdowns will soon be eased and, eventually, lifted entirely, customers will remain hesitant to browse, shop, and dine in the same way, choosing to support the businesses that make them feel most safe, especially if there is another spike in coronavirus cases.