As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on the retail industry, commercial contractors will play a crucial role in keeping perseverant retailers open by renovating their spaces to accommodate post-pandemic customer needs.
“Other than temporary measures that focused on hygiene and wellness, such as installing sneeze guards, aisle stickers and signs, retail design has been on-hold throughout the pandemic,” explained Sam Cicero, president of Cicero Construction Group. “For retailers to survive in these tough times they’ll need to renovate their outlets according to the rules of the new normal.”
Cicero believes that COVID-19 gives brands an opportunity to review their current retail strategy and strengthen it. He offers these post-COVID tips that may further accelerate a retail renaissance:
- Coherent Brand Identity: Positive customer experiences increasingly depend on the flow from online to in-store, generating an even greater need for a brand image to be well-executed and consistent across all platforms. The idea is to fully stitch together a brand identity and create a strong visual personality through store signage, colour themes and other interior design elements.
- Make Safety Permanent: Replace temporary sneeze guards with permanent designer glass. Working protective elements into the aesthetics of a space will help safety feel more natural, and it won’t affect the overall experience that the customer has in-store.
- Social Distancing: This could include widening aisles, reducing clutter to open space, and having a one-way flow of traffic. Remove racks and shelving from the middle of the store to help people stay further away from each other. Utilizing real plants and functional art as partitions are a creative way to create a safe distance between guests that feels intentional.
- Air Quality: Upgrading air filtration systems helps mitigate viruses and bacteria. Installing windows or taking down interior walls can also help flush out stale air.
- Safer Surfaces: Studies have shown that COVID-19 can live for up to 72 hours on commonly used materials such as plastic and steel. Copper and other anti-microbial materials should be incorporated wherever possible in high-touch areas of the store.
- LED Lighting: Consciously or not, a key factor that determines whether passers-by will go into a store is the perception that it is safe. One way for stores to feel welcoming and safe is LED lighting. Not only does LED lighting improve the customer experience and make merchandise look more appealing, it can reduce electricity costs by as much as 60 per cent.
- Dressing Rooms: Dressing rooms are typically small and crowded. A makeover will accommodate social distancing and other preventive measures. This means cubicles being expanded and the walking space widened.
- Multiple entrances: By adding another entrance or two, retailers encourage customers to spread out in a store as they come in and begin their shopping journey.
- Touchless Technologies: Thermal scanning and contactless POS/self-checkout systems will become more prevalent, along with automatic sliding doors at storefronts and self-service wherever possible.
- Pick-Up Areas: As more customers use curbside pick-up, retailers have to adapt to this change. Many retailers have already introduced separate areas for online pick-up. It is only a matter of time before we see loading areas being repositioned for customer pick-up coordination. In areas of the country that are prone to adverse weather, retailers might want to cover pickup areas for driver comfort.
- Fear-free Spaces: Even though the catalyst for this new retail design is grim, it doesn’t mean the aesthetic has to reflect fear. The key is a balance of conveying to shoppers that they are in a pristine space, but without it feeling sterile. Incorporate wood grains and a softer colour palette to add sophistication to an airy environment. Shades of grassy green bring fresh pops of colour into the space, while hints of earthy clay and natural metals throughout add underlying balance and warmth.
“In the first phase of the pandemic, stores responded swiftly to safety requirements. Now, this trajectory has to continue, with retailers acting agilely to get ahead of strong consumer demand,” said Cicero. “I think brick and mortar is going to boom since people want the opportunity to be out and about again. So, from a design perspective, retail outlets are going to have to be refreshed.”