NEW YORK – Forget the fun of shopping. As clothing retailers and others try to remain viable during the coronavirus pandemic, they hope that measures such as cleaning during store hours, offering hand sanitizer and other safety measures will bring customers to spend.
At the same time, they are largely leaving the changing rooms open and not requiring customers to wear masks unless it is a local rule, despite public health experts who advise that masks, social distance and good ventilation are essential for safety. This can make some already nervous buyers more nervous.
“Shopping was something I really enjoyed. I like to look at clothes and jewelry. It was almost like therapy, ”said Hope Kaplan, a 62-year-old publicist who is now willing to go only to the dentist and CVS because she is concerned about the coronavirus, especially with cases at her home in Tucson, Arizona.
It is a crucial time for retailers, who are trying to recover from the worst sales drop ever recorded. The months-long shutdowns have accelerated store closings and bankruptcies. And some stores may start to close some locations again, as cases increase in states like Florida, Arizona and Texas. Apple already has it.
Retailers used to encourage shoppers to stay, offering tries like food, trying on clothes and makeup and playing with toys in their stores – things you couldn’t do on Amazon. Stores are now easier to use, with options to choose from on the sidewalk. But they say that shoppers who want to leave the store still can.
“Shopping is an emotional experience,” said Melissa Gonzalez, a retail consultant in New York. “The problem is, how do you take security measures, but still make shopping inviting and fun?”
Taking a page from retailers such as Walmart, Target and Home Depot, which remained open because they were considered essential businesses, many of the major retailers are making employees wear masks, constantly cleaning public areas, adding plexiglass shields through the cashiers, limiting the number of store customers and adding signs that remind shoppers to keep five feet away.
“I like that stores are constantly cleaning up,” said Madelyn Rouse, 17, of Chicago, who recently bought from American Eagle Outfitters, Urban Outfitters and Forever 21.
Saks Fifth Avenue offers shopping scheduling before and after business hours, while JC Penney dedicates certain shopping hours to vulnerable customers. American Eagle and Sephora provide hand sanitizer at store entrances.
Rather than allowing customers to try on makeup, Macy’s cosmetics counter staff showcase colorful designs of the makeup’s appearance. Ulta Beauty and Sephora have phone apps that allow customers to virtually try lipstick and other beauty products.
As for masks, which public health experts encourage to stem the spread of the virus, American Eagle is one of the few that requires customers to use them in all stores. He hands out masks at the store entrances. But getting store employees to apply social detachment can be difficult, especially when dealing with shoppers who don’t want to wear masks.
Stores are also opening dressing rooms, which are crucial for many clothing buyers, but are also very close spaces where people can become infected. Even the chains that initially closed the fitting rooms, such as Gap, JC Penney and Kohl’s, now reopen them. The stores say they will remove the tried and tested clothes from the sales sector for a few days. American Eagle is steam cleaning discarded clothing.
Social distance, masks, constant disinfection and well-ventilated indoor spaces are important, said Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University. He recommends keeping the dressing rooms closed until a later stage of reopening and believes that the clothes themselves are not a likely source of infection.
The main safety concern for workers is that customers don’t wear masks, said Stuart Applebaum, president of the retail, wholesale and department store union, which represents about 6,300 employees of Macy’s and Bloomingdale in New York.
A Macy worker in New York was apprehensive about returning to work in late June, but said he felt safe.
“You need to create a safe environment for us and our customers,” said Steve Ward, 58, who works in the mattress business. “Before, our focus was only on selling.
He sprays the mattress with disinfectant in front of customers before and after trying it out.
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