How should retailers manage touch-but-not-buy?
The ability to have customers return merchandise, try on clothes in fitting rooms and even touch merchandise has been clouded by concerns over the transmission of COVID-19.
Among the strategies some retailers are using as they start to reopen:
- Gap’s dressing rooms will be closed. Returns will be quarantined for 24 hours before being placed back on sales racks.
- Saks Fifth Avenue will keep dressing rooms open, but fewer will be available and they’ll be cleaned after each use. Items tried on or returned are being taken off the sales floor for 48 hours.
- Target has closed fitting rooms. Returned clothing items are being quarantined for three days before placing them back on the sales floor.
- Macy’s will also open fewer dressing rooms with frequent sanitization and will hold aside returned and fitting room merchandise for 24 hours before bringing it back to the sales floor.
- At DSW, any shoe returns or shoes that have been tried on will be removed from the sales floor to the back where they will be sprayed with disinfectant and kept off the sales floor for three days.
Beyond apparel and footwear, Macy’s beauty departments will offer “no-touch” consultations and demonstrations and will help customers test products on a piece of paper with a diagram of a face. Customers will be required to use hand sanitizer when trying on jewelry.
A challenge, according to Glossy, is that few guidelines have come out from authorities on how product should be handled. Saks is investigating whether to use experts to advise them on how or if apparel needs to be cleaned after it is tried on by a customer, according to the New York Post.
Retailers could face lawsuits from sick patrons and workers after reopening, although health officials have said it’s highly unlikely a person can get COVID-19 through apparel or footwear. The sanitization, mask for associates and other steps are also designed to make customers feel comfortable enough to shop in public. Saks plans to take the temperatures of associates daily and potentially communicate those results to shoppers.
- Gap Inc. Outlines Strategic Plan for Store Re-Openings, including Health and Safety Measures – Gap Inc.
- Target’s coronavirus response – Target
- We’re gradually reopening our stores & safety is our top priority – Macy’s
- Re-Opening Our Stores – DSW
- Clothing stores changing fitting rooms for coronavirus re-openings – New York Post
- Fashion retailers are re-opening, but fitting rooms are off-limits – Glossy
- Saks Fifth Avenue reveals plans for fashionably sanitized post-coronavirus opening – New York Post
- Macy’s reopening: New rules customers, employees will have to follow – ABC 7
- Macy’s Plans to Reopen All of Its 775 Stores in 6 to 8 Weeks – The New York Times
- Businesses Fear Lawsuits from Sick Employees, Patrons After Reopening – Insurance Journal
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How should retailers manage returns, fitting rooms and other product-related contamination risks? What are the most important measures retailers should be embracing to assure customers that stores are safe to shop?