Here’s How Several Major Retail Chains Are Reopening This Week

As many parts of the country begin to reopen, several major retailers are reopening a percentage of their stores.

But operating retail environments in the midst of a global pandemic is delicate business, especially when numbers of new COVID-19 infections are still on the rise in many areas, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that opening public spaces at this juncture will likely add to the number of cases in the United States.

In response, retailers are reopening with new safety measures and in-store guidelines for workers and consumers in place. Here’s how they’re doing it.

The fashion retailer will open 800 shops by the end of May. Safety measures will include new plexiglass dividers at registers, reduced hours, closed restrooms and fitting rooms, hand sanitizer at entrances, and signs in stores encouraging customers to wear face coverings and to socially distance from one another. The company will also hold returned merchandise for 24 hours before putting it back on the sales floor (it’s unclear how long COVID-19 lives on textiles).

The Seattle-based retailer is reopening in phases and is instituting a number of safety precautions, including providing face masks for all store employees (and offering them to customers at the door) and going more “contactless” in transactions—meaning customers will not be able to pay with cash but can pay with credit cards they handle and contactless digital payment methods such as Apple Pay. The retailers will also close some fitting rooms, add plexiglass dividers to registers, offer curbside pickup, and will position employees at store entrances to hand out masks to customers who need them. It’s also holding returned merchandise for 24 hours before returning it to the sales floor.

The department store announced last week that it will reopen all 775 of its department stores in the coming six to eight weeks. But stores will have new guidelines for safety: ear piercings and makeup sampling and application won’t be allowed (makeup artists will use testers on face charts), there will be no bra fittings, dress shirts cannot be tried on, customers will be required to use hand sanitizer before trying on jewelry and watches, and alteration services will be suspended. Employees will wear company-issued masks and undergo “wellness checks” before punching in to work. High-touch counters and areas will be disinfected regularly, and “sneeze guards” (assuming plexiglass) will be installed at checkout counters.

Kohl’s reopened in four states last week—Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah—and announced Thursday that it plans to open in an additional 10 states on Monday: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, and Texas, Florida, and Tennessee. By the end of the week, about 25% of its stores will be open, the company said in a prepared statement. New safety measures include closed fitting rooms, reduced operating hours, dedicated shopping hours for at-risk populations (every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.), signs that encourage maintaining social distance, reduction of entrances to a single one, the addition of associates that sanitize carts between each use, and plexiglass barriers at all registers. Additionally, credit card pin pads and checkout lane counters are also being cleaned before and after each customer.

Top: A Nordstrom store (photo courtesy of Nordstrom)

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