Four brands gave Retail Brew an inside look at their approach to reopening.
As the coronavirus pandemic gained speed in the United States, retail brands joined the effort to slow the spread by closing their stores. Temporary closures were a special form of torture for DTC brands: For many, opening brick and mortar stores was the first step toward profitable growth and a valuable way to connect with their devoted communities.
Nearly two months of store distancing later, states are allowing nonessential retailers to reopen—but the in-store experience shoppers will find likely won’t be the same. Suddenly, the most successful stores are the ones where customers feel safe, not the ones where they’re walking in a 3D Instagram feed.
So we wanted to know: How are leading DTC and startup retailers rethinking the in-store experience to safely reopen? Four brands gave Retail Brew an inside look at their approach to the grand reopening.
Store presence: 17 stores across 6 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., plus two international locations in Toronto, Canada, and London, England
Closed since: March 14
Reopening approach: “Our biggest priority is the safety of our customers and employees, so we’re taking our time and focusing on e-commerce while we work to get appropriate systems in place for shopping in our retail stores. Our stores won’t reopen until we’re confident things have really improved in each city we operate in, even if the rest of the state has opened up.
“For reopening, we’re building options like contactless curbside and in-store pickup, and of course will implement protective measures like maintaining a reduced capacity in stores, and frequent deep cleanings and sanitization of all high-touch surfaces in accordance with CDC guidelines. We’ll ask our customers to wear masks and social distance, and will require it of our employees, along with regular health checks and hand washing.” — Yael Aflalo, CEO of Reformation
Store presence: Three stores between NYC and LA, two pending new stores in Atlanta, GA, and Washington, D.C.
Closed since: Mid-March
Reopening approach: “I always believed that the world would move more and more online and COVID-19 is accelerating these behaviors. We are taking this as an opportunity to streamline our backend in a way that might facilitate a more omnichannel way to service people in real life and online. The shortlist of things we’re exploring includes facilitating in-store pickup of online orders, virtual styling, and some decentralized fulfillment.” — Ashley Merrill, CEO of Lunya
Store presence: One store in Brooklyn, NY, with more in the works
Closed since: March 15
Reopening approach: “Although we are eager to reopen our store—and open new stores!—the health and safety of our customers and team is the highest priority. We’re paying close attention to state and local guidelines to inform how and when we can welcome back our customers, but at this point plan to account for frequent deep cleanings, PPE for our staff and more unique cleaning supplies—for example, antibacterial spray for textiles. We are also considering shopping by appointment, buy online/ship to store or store pickup, and other socially distant solutions, but have not finalized our comprehensive reopening plans at present.” — Rich Fulop, CEO of Brooklinen
Pop Up Grocer
Store presence: One pop-up store in Austin, TX, scheduled to operate from June 5 to June 28
Delayed since: Mid-April
Reopening approach: “We’ve limited the total number of people inside at a time, which means reducing both the number of visitors allowed in, as well as the staff. The roles of our staff have shifted as well, implementing someone to attend at the door to guide people as to how to best and safely use the space, and someone to attend to packing purchases in the back with sanitized merchandise. This is something typically done at the register.
“From a design perspective, we’ve eliminated some elements like our community table and living room area, which promotes gathering. And we’ve added markers on the floors to indicate encouraged distancing. We’ve also created the availability of private appointments, between the morning hours of 9AM and 10AM each day, for those who want to shop alone for safety. We’re excited about the possibility of extending private appointments beyond the near-term COVID-19 risks. Appointments allow for visitors to indicate their dietary preferences and other special needs which, in allowing us to cater to, we think will really enhance the overall experience.” — Emily Schildt, founder of Pop Up Grocer