Regardless of your location in North American, now is the time that you should start planning to reopen your showroom when sheltering in place requirements are lifted. Most certainly, the showroom that you return to will not operate the same way as the showroom you left. There is no precedence for reopening, but you may be able to learn from the experiences of retailers that have remained open during the pandemic, e.g., grocery stores.
Opening does not necessarily mean that clients and customers will automatically return. Our world has changed. A Morning Consult study in early April found that 24% of consumers would not feel comfortable shopping in a mall for at least six months, and 16% said they would feel comfortable going to a mall three months from now. Only 4% said they would journey to the mall in May.
The plan to reopen your showroom needs to account for the fear and skepticism many of your clients will have upon entering your showroom. You will once again have to earn the trust of a leery clientele. “Trust is the foundation of all human connections, from chance encounters to friendships and intimate relationships,” wrote Peg Steep in Psychology Today. “It governs all interactions we have with each other. Culture, civilization and community all depend on trust."
Consumers will need to believe that their safety will not be compromised when they walk into a showroom. Showrooms will need to account for social distancing requirements that are more than likely to stay in force after sheltering in place mandates are lifted. Establish guidelines for the number of customers and staff that you want to enter your showroom at any one time based on square footage and social distancing requirements. Showrooms will also need to control traffic flow throughout the store with measures such as one-way aisles and signage that encourages customers to remain six feet apart.
You may also use infrared thermometers, provide disinfecting stations at entrances and exits and create safe spaces between customers and designers and other team members. You'll have to implement disinfecting protocols for high-touch surfaces such as pulls and handles on displays, doors and other areas. You should also expect to provide masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment to your team, and expect customers to wear them as well. Consider training your team on how to engage customers while wearing a mask and gloves.
The new normal will almost certainly require new staffing schedules and protocols. Make sure that you don’t mix different workers on different shifts to avoid having to shut down your showroom if one of your team members tests positive.
Other reopening considerations may include:
As we emerge from home confinement, there are likely to be two mindsets. Some have been financially hurt by either a furlough, layoff or salary reduction, and they are likely to stick to the basic necessities. And then there are those who have been stuck in their homes for a couple of months and have noticed that their kitchens, baths and other spaces are not what they would like them to be. They may want to reward themselves and their families for the hardships that they have endured.
Whatever the new normal looks like, it won’t be similar to the old normal. There remain too many unknowns. That's why the first steps in a reopening strategy should focus on the physical aspects of your showroom and changes that will make your customers and prospects feel safe to enter.