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In part one of our COVID-19 reopening and recovery series for small businesses, we took a closer look at how to create a safety preparation checklist. This checklist, covering items such as hiring a certified sanitizing professional (CSP) and training employees on new social distancing and sanitizing initiatives, helps prepare brick and mortar storefronts to safely reopen to the public.

Steps and Stages of Reopening

Transitioning into reopening in the next normal will differ for every small business. Many are currently following the phasing approach as per state and health guidelines. Each state’s phases for reopening are a bit different than the next. In the state of California, for example, there are four stages in the resilience roadmap.

  • Stage 1: Safety and Preparedness. In this stage, essential workplaces like grocery stores and pharmacies are made as safe as possible through PPE and behavior changes. Additionally, safety guidelines for the expanded workforce are prepared on a sector-by-sector basis.
  • Stage 2: Lower Risk Workplaces. Lower risk workplaces may reopen, such as retail storefronts, with adaptions like mobile ordering and curbside pickup available to customers.
  • Stage 3: Higher Risk Workplaces. Higher risk environments, such as hair salons, gyms, churches, and indoor seating at restaurants, may open again. Much like lower risk workplaces, there are adaptations made in each space to ensure the environment is able to meet safety and health guidelines while limiting the size of gatherings.
  • Stage 4: End of Stay-At-Home Order. The highest risk workplaces, including concert venues and sports stadiums, may reopen and allow for large gatherings again.

Realistically, it may be awhile before each state is able to safely reach stage 4. Many small businesses are currently rolling out changes between stages 2 and 3. What can businesses do to alert their customer base about what they are doing to ensure a smooth return to storefronts?


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Update Customers Through Newsletters and Social Media

One of the simplest ways to provide customers with necessary information about your storefront’s ‘grand reopening’ is through e-newsletters and social media platforms.

The newsletter for a small business’ reopening should tackle what the business is doing to help keep customers safe and outline actions customers should take to ensure added safety. While these guidelines will vary by industry, some common changes include the following.

  • Mask and PPE equipment. The storefront will require staff and guests to wear masks upon entry and when they are in the storefront. Additional rules may be noted depending on the facility. A dentist’s office, for example, will allow you to remove your mask while your teeth are being cleaned. They likely will encourage keeping the mask on up until that moment. Additional PPE equipment may also be implemented through the storefront, such as staff wearing gloves and plexiglass placement.
  • Best practices for entering the store. In order to keep storefronts from having too many customers inside, some shops may set up social distancing markers on the ground. This indicates where you may stand and helps avoid gatherings of crowds. Other storefronts, especially those by appointment only like hair salons, may have you call them before you are allowed inside.
  • Precautions. In addition to PPE and social distancing, expect to hear additional precautions being taken by the storefront. Some of these may include, but are not limited to, increased cleaning and sanitation frequency of surfaces, tamper proof packaging, and contactless payment.
  • Complimentary services. If you previously provided complimentary services, such as free samples or a beverage bar, note that these will be unavailable until further notice.
  • Self-assessment. Some high-risk establishments, like nail salons, may require guests to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire. This provides additional information about the guest’s health and travel history. Anyone who feels ill is advised to stay home and cancel their appointment.

The amount of information to initially cover, however, may be overwhelming as a singular social media post caption. Encourage customers to sign up for your e-newsletter for the full scoop. Then, create images and infographics that outline your reopening rules for social media platforms. This makes it easier to read and digest the changes your storefront is implementing, engage with the information, and share it.

Outline New Store Hours

Storefronts transitioning into reopening may have new store hours for when they will be open and closed. Closing earlier gives staff the chance to thoroughly sanitize and clean the shop. Open hours may also vary depending on customer age, with seniors given an earlier time slot priority.

Make sure customers are aware of these new store hours. You may do this through storefront signage, newsletters, updates via social media, and voicemail recordings. Store hours may also be set to change, depending on state orders, so keep a watchful eye on the local news and update changes in hours or safety procedures accordingly.

Create a Wait List

Your storefront’s grand reopening in the next normal may not have a line out the building. Many customers may be considering when to visit your shop. Some may choose to wait it out until you are able to fully phase back in and provide your full range of services. This is perfectly fine. Ask if you may add them to your wait list. Create a client wait list. As time progresses and your storefront is able to phase into offering more services, get in touch with those on the wait list and let them know what’s available.

Continue Utilizing Mobile Order Services

Navigating toward the next normal, for many businesses, will mean keeping certain pivots born out of COVID-19.

If your storefront is able to offer mobile order and curbside pickup services, continue to keep these services available to customers. Those customers that are not yet ready to physically go inside your shop will feel more comfortable knowing they may still place an order through an app, pick it up, and support the business and overall community.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.


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