These are the precautions retailers will take before they open their doors
TORONTO -- As provinces begin to allow certain businesses to reopen in accordance with public health guidelines, consumers may encounter a very different shopping experience from what they were used to before the spread of coronavirus.
Across the country, retailers have begun preparing for the green light from their respective provincial governments to welcome customers back, albeit with a number of required new safety protocols.
While some consumers are eagerly anticipating the reopening of their favourite stores, others have expressed concerns about their safety when they venture out shopping again.
For those shoppers, CTVNews.ca has rounded up some of the safety precautions retailers across Canada are implementing in order to protect their customers and employees when operations resume.
In order to keep track of customers entering the premises, many retailers have said they will only allow them to come in through dedicated entrances. The number of entrances will depend on the size of the store and their staffing capabilities to monitor people as they come inside.
Across Quebec, except in Montreal, the provincial government has only allowed retailers with exterior or outside entrances to reopen to the public. That means businesses with indoor entrances in malls, for example, will not be able to reopen just yet.
Many Canadian shoppers have already experienced long lineups outside grocery stores, liquor stores, and pharmacies as those businesses try to limit the number of people shopping inside at once. That policy is not expected to go away anytime soon and other retailers will be expected to follow suit if they want to reopen in the coming weeks.
In Saskatchewan, for example, shopping malls and retail stores are set to reopen on May 19. To be allowed to do so, businesses must post signs indicating the maximum number of shoppers and employees allowed in the store at one time and monitor the flow of traffic to ensure the rules are being followed.
In Manitoba, where businesses have already started reopening, restaurants have been allowed to open only their patios and with 50 per cent of their typical capacity.
Before customers will even be allowed to enter certain stores, they may be required to undergo a temperature check to ensure they don’t have a fever, one of the symptoms of COVID-19.
Some grocery stores have already implemented this policy, such as the Asian-foods grocer T&T, which began conducting temperature checks using a non-invasive infrared thermometer in mid-April.
The grocery chain Longo’s has also employed this strategy at a number of its locations as part of its “wellness screening protocols.” Security guards will check arriving customers’ temperatures using an infrared thermometer and ask them a series of questions to determine their health condition before they enter.
A Vancouver liquor store has taken temperature checks one step further by installing thermal cameras at its entrance. The cameras at the Value on Liquor Store scan employees and potential customers’ body temperatures as they enter the store.
If someone has a temperature reading of 37.5 C or higher, the camera will send out an audible alert and staff will ask that person to leave.
One of the simplest safety measures for retailers to implement is providing hand sanitizer for employees and customers.
In several provinces, retailers have been instructed to set up hand-washing stations or have alcohol-based hand sanitizers readily available for anyone entering the store.
In Saskatchewan, that means these stations or hand sanitizers should be placed near doors, pay stations, change rooms, and any other high-traffic areas. Retailers in the province have also been advised to have wipes and trash bins available near the entrance so customers can wipe down shopping carts and handles.
The Ontario government, too, has ordered retailers to have hand sanitizer at every entry and to have a safe place for customers to discard sanitizing wipes and face masks. Customer-facing employees, such as delivery persons or cashiers, should also be provided with their own hand sanitizer for their individual use.
PERSONALIZED PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
Canadians have become accustomed to seeing people wearing face masks and gloves in public over the past few weeks, a practice that is sure to stick around for the foreseeable future.
Employees at grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential businesses have been wearing personal protective equipment while on the job for weeks and it’s expected other retailers will follow their lead when they’re allowed to reopen.
While provincial guidelines vary, many businesses have taken it upon themselves to provide PPE for staff and in some cases, customers.
For example, luxury department store Nordstrom has already announced it will provide face coverings for all employees and shoppers who need them when the stores are able to reopen.
The Longo’s grocery chain has already mandated that all customers wear face masks before entering their stores, excluding children under the age of two.
In addition to face masks and gloves, retailers have been encouraged to install other physical barriers, such as plexiglass shields for cashiers, to keep people away from each other.
MANAGED FLOW OF TRAFFIC
As public health officials continue to stress the importance of physical distancing and keeping two metres apart from others in public, retailers have been instructed to ensure this is possible in their stores with floor markings and physical barriers to direct the flow of traffic.
That means that customers will have to follow arrows on the floor or signs directing them where they can go in the store so they’re not wandering aimlessly down aisles in proximity to their fellow shoppers. In addition to signs, some stores may put up physical barriers, such as rope, to prevent customers from walking in certain areas.
In Manitoba, shopping malls have been allowed to reopen, but they must enforce physical distancing. At the Polo Park mall, the general manager said they have put signs and markers on the floor showing them where to walk.
“We’re using the rules of the road,” Peter Havens told CTV News Winnipeg. “Stay to the right, passing lanes on the left, and parking lane is on the right.”
ALTERNATIVE PURCHASING OPTIONS
To discourage in-person contact, provincial governments have encouraged retailers to offer additional purchasing options to their customers such as, online ordering, curbside pickup, and contactless delivery.
In Ontario, garden centres have been allowed to reopen, but they can only offer curbside pickup and customers are not allowed in the stores.
In addition to contactless deliveries, retailers have also been asked to offer online payment for orders to avoid pin pad or cash transactions that require customers and staff to be close to one another.
MODIFIED CHANGE ROOMS, RETURNS
With clothing and retail stores set to resume operations in mid-May, the province of Saskatchewan has ordered businesses to prepare by introducing new rules for fitting rooms and returning or exchanging items.
Under the new rules, Saskatchewan retailers must only operate their fitting rooms at 50 per cent capacity. Items that returned by customers must be cleaned, disinfected, and isolated in a separate bin for 72 hours before they can be displayed in the store again.
In other provinces, such as P.E.I., change rooms have been closed altogether and customers have to wait until they’re home to try on clothing items. They are allowed to return clothing, however.
Eventually, clothing stores in P.E.I. will be allowed to let customers try on clothing if the first phases of reopening are successful.