The world of retail has changed in ways no one could have predicated just a few short months ago. Small businesses across the U.S. have been forced to adapt as the COVID-19 pandemic has hit them hard. Many closed their doors, some permanently. Some have found ways to keep revenue coming in. Others decided to wait it out amid uncertain social and economic times. As towns, cities and states adopt and roll out reopening plans, there are some proactive steps you can take to prepare for what many are calling the new normal.
Unique Challenges of Collaborative Sales
Small brick-and-mortar retailers were already facing numerous challenges before the pandemic. Now as reopening begins, they must find a way to keep staff and customers safe while adhering to new laws and regulations. Frame shops used to collaborating with their customers to toss creative ideas around may find doing so particularly problematic.
Big box retailers face many of these same challenges and are coming up with solutions they hope customers will embrace. Macy’s, for example, is implementing no-touch consultations in their beauty departments, and Best Buy says customers will still be offered one-on-one appointments, but employees will be required to maintain social distancing and disinfect any product a customer might want to try.
No matter what their size, traditional retailers have smaller, limited points of contact. Shops like delis, drugstores and grocers see less direct interaction between customers and staff. Those stores have adapted by changing their checkout process and customer flow patterns.
Collaborative consultants like interior designers, architects, doctors, dentists, and framers depend on staff and customer working together, often face-to-face. Frame shops in particular handle the same surfaces like matboards and frame corners as well as the artwork itself. How to protect customers and employees in these situations gets more difficult.
Reopening Strategies for Frame Shops
Frame shops have always delighted in creating enjoyable and satisfying collaborative experiences for their customers. There’s no reason that can’t continue as you carefully move forward on welcoming people back into your own shop. Creative thinking and actions that show your customers you put their health and safety first will help you survive and thrive.
Here are some terrific ways you can rethink your business processes to ensure a safe reopening of your shop.
Online Shopping Strategies
With more customers staying at home, expanding online shopping, upping social media marketing strategies and incorporating group chat have been several ways small retailers have managed to keep a hand in the game. The understandable focus right now for many shops is on short-term goals like generating revenue and implementing social distancing measures.
Some shops are experimenting with creative ways to collaborate with customers while limiting close contact. For example, you could install a video setup where customers view your matting and framing suggestions from a distance on another monitor. If space permits, you might want to install a plexiglass divider on the table with an opening where you slide samplesback and forth. As always, your goal should be to limit face-to-face time while maintaining a good rapport with your customers so they feel valued and protected.
Reopening plans will vary so you may find the restrictions put in place by your state still require you to seek out alternative revenue generating opportunities. Possibilities include:
- Offering custom printing from images your customers upload to your website.
- Scheduling video design consultations to help customers pick frames, create a gallery wall, or use custom cut matboard and framing to complement their home fashion(https:/www.crescentcardboard.com/article/how-custom-cut-matboard-and-framing-can-help-your-home-fashion/). Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams are all fairly easy to use. Popular visualization framing software programs include Larson Juhl’s Framing Studio, SimulArt Studio, Lifesaver Picture Framing, and Adobe Photoshop.
- Repurposing equipment to meet current needs. For example, with the proper 90˚blade cutter,your CMC machine can become a plastic fabricator, perfect for making face shields and even visors for local businesses such as nail and beauty salons.
Now’s also a good time to get your shop ready for welcoming back customers. Use eye-catching signs or banners to make sure people know you’re open again for regular services. Set up one or more stations with hand sanitizer and consider having a supply of disposablemasks if you intend to ask customers to wear them while in the shop. Finally, give your shop a fresh look by swapping out product displays with newsamples.
Changes to Protect Employees
The health and safety of you and your employees must be a top priority as you ease into reopening. PPE, temperature checks, voluntary testing, and social distancing rules are just some of the procedures businesses of all sizes are putting in place. Some owners are requiring employees to answer screening questions before allowing them to start back at work.
Many framing shops have limited space in their “back room” framing area so you’ll need to look for ways to minimize workroom density. To further boost staff safety, you can also:
- Provide PPE (personal protective equipment) like masks, gloves and face shields.
- Stagger employee work schedules to ensure social distancing guideline adherence.
- Schedule mandatory breaks and prominently post hand washing/sanitizing requirements.
- Disinfect the workplace more frequently. You may also want to consider hiring a professional cleaning service to occasionally do deep sanitizing.
Protecting You and Your Customers
Look to your local and state governments for guidance on what’s required for a safe reopening. Mandated or not, these are some of the common safeguards many businesses are taking to minimize the risk of exposure.
- Post instructional signage in conspicuous places and use floor markers, ropes or other barriers to maintain six feet between people.
- Install plexiglass cough/sneeze screens between employees and customers at places like the front desk and consulting table.
- Offer curbside drop-off and pick-up. To help make this a smooth process be sure your customers understand where and when they can use this option. Some shops are putting drop off and pickup bins in their shops or setting up special areas in the store so customers can avoid standing in line to complete those tasks. Posting images to your social media accounts and website can help, too.
- Use free scheduling tools such as Appointy which can turn your Facebook page into an online booking platform and Square Appointments which syncs with Google Calendar to let customers set up their consultations.
Whether you’re reopening your business now or in the near future, it’s likely the retail experience will be tied to COVID-19 for some time. These insights and resources can help you plan the next important steps to get your business to a place where you’re ready to cheerfully—and safely—welcome back your customers.