Social distancing is very effective at slowing the spread of viruses like COVID-19. As a result, governments are asking owners of essential businesses to encourage the practice — and some others — at their stores.
Many people are familiar with the basics of social distancing — like avoiding crowded public spaces and keeping six feet between yourself and others when possible. However, not everyone knows exactly what they should do. Plus, people sometimes forget to practice social distancing while out shopping.
If you’re trying to encourage social distancing at your retail location, there are a few different tips and strategies you can use.
1. Social Distancing Markings
Six feet can sometimes be hard to visualize. To help customers give each other the right amount of space, set down social distancing markings with simple materials like masking tape or vinyl stickers. These markings will work best in areas where customers will wait, such as in front of registers and lines outside a store.
2. Aisle Routing
It can be difficult for customers to navigate certain areas of a crowded store — like narrow aisles — and maintain six feet of distance from others at the same time. In cases like these, you can use simple traffic flow markings and signs that make store aisles one-way.
Well-placed floor markings and signs keep customers from needing to maneuver around or by each other as they shop, helping them maintain that six feet of space.
3. PA Announcements and Reminders
Sending out quick PA blasts asking customers to maintain social distancing can keep customers mindful. You can also deploy high-tech solutions, like security questions, that automatically detect customers who are too close together and encourage them to spread out to a safer distance.
4. Helpful Social Distancing Signage
Good signage posted around the store can do a lot to encourage social distancing and other good health habits. These signs can remind customers to social distance, show them how far apart six feet is and encourage practices like mask-wearing and regular hand-washing.
Most state guidelines recommend this type of signage, including North Carolina and New Jersey. There are a number of free signage resources on the internet, including social distancing sign templates that your business can use to encourage customers to social distance.
5. Limiting Customers in the Building
A simple cap on the number of customers who can be in the store at once is a great way to ensure that people have the space needed to social distance. You don’t need to enforce this policy all the time, but focusing on peak hours or certain days of the week can reduce the risk that your store becomes overcrowded.
You can also go further and reserve certain hours for at-risk groups, like the elderly and immunocompromised, giving them a chance to shop and social distance as easily as possible.
If your business sells ready-to-eat food items or drinks, it’s a good idea to discourage consumption on site. Many essential retailers and stores have removed seating and tables to encourage customers to go home after they’ve checked out. This setup helps people avoid spending more time than they need to in public, reducing the risk that they spread or contract the disease.
6. Delivery, Curbside Pickup and No-Contact Checkout
Delivery services, curbside pickup and no-contact checkout can reduce the risk of transmission between staff and customers. These services also decrease the number of people who need to come into the store without discouraging purchases. Online orders in the U.S. and Canada and are also up 56% as of March 22 through April 4. Right now, if you offer the ability to shop online, customers will likely take the option.
Supporting payment apps and other forms of no-contact payment can help ensure social distancing between customers and employees during checkout. In the same way that customers are more likely to shop online, they’re also using mobile payment options more frequently. If you provide the option, they’re likely to use it, helping you maintain social distancing in-store.
You can also minimize contact between customers and staff at checkouts with protective elements like plexiglass partitions and temporary plastic barriers.
Encouraging Social Distance and Good Health Habits
If you run an essential retail location and are still open, you should encourage your customers to practice social distancing. Because not every customer may know what social distancing entails — and because it’s possible to forget that you should be doing it — customers may need some help.
Regular reminders, floor markers and signs that outline the basics of social distancing can help. Managing your store’s traffic flow can make it easier for customers to follow this guideline while they move through the aisles.
In addition to social distancing, you can also implement other health practices that keep your employees and customers safe. Regular store sanitation, encouraging hand-washing and providing staff with gloves and masks — or encouraging them to bring their own — can reduce the risk of transmission in your store. You can also routinely disinfect surfaces, especially ones regularly touched by customers — like shopping cart handles or credit card readers.
If we all follow these practices, we can hopefully slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. If we take these sanitation recommendations to heart and beat the disease, life can go back to normal. Until then, stay safe and make sure your customers follow these rules.
Lexie is a digital nomad and graphic designer. If she’s not traveling to various parts of the country, you can find her at the local flea markets or hiking with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.