Retail’s New Normal in the Age of the Coronavirus

by | Mar 31, 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed our world forever. While navigating the here and now is of course the burning issue on everyone’s mind, it’s also important to consider what happens next. Where do you go from here? What do you need to be thinking about? How will you coordinate your journey to the “New Normal”?  And finally, what will that New Normal be?

The Coronavirus will not be gone when we reach the New Normal. Until we mass-produce a vaccine or we develop herd immunity, social distancing will be a cornerstone of our lives. Social distancing will become a fact of life in all aspects of your stores’ operations, impacting how you provide the same level of customer service to your customers while providing a safe working and shopping experience.

Here are some things you may consider for your stores as you prepare for the New Normal:


We’re seeing those retailers fortunate enough to remain open during the shelter-in-place period (grocers and drug stores) redesign their front end by installing plexiglass barriers between their cashiers and customers to maintain social distancing. We expect further experimentation in this area as time passes.

Line/Queue Management

Grocers are also implementing line/queue control by placing markers on the floor at the registers to enforce social distancing while customers wait in line. This may also force you to rethink your cash wrap and front-end design.

Self-Serve Checkout

Self-checkout capabilities reduce your employee-customer interaction at checkout. This will likely become a more preferred method of checkout in the future for grocers as well as general retailers.

Employee Self-Service

Similar to self-serve checkout, companies should explore ways to provide self-service capabilities to their employees. Mobility tools like WorkJam, Shyft, Branch, and those from the WFM vendors themselves drive one-on-one interaction with your staff while enforcing social distancing. Being mobile enables you to:

  • Move clocking out of the breakroom and into employees’ hands
  • Transition from face-to-face or “handshake” shift-swapping to an online portal
  • Take training materials out of a binder and into online training modules
  • Hold in-store staff meetings virtually

Online and Delivery 

During the quarantine and shelter-in-place period, many retailers have seen their online and home delivery business grow significantly. As we engage in the New Normal we would expect that some of this business will drop off, but it will likely remain significantly higher than prior to this experience due to customers’ continued focus on social distancing. Driving efficiencies and improving processes in these areas will be paramount.

Space Management

One of the most significant things to think about is how to operate effectively while providing the necessary space in your environment to support social distancing for your customers and employees. Rethinking store layout, space and inventory management, and your frontline and customer service capabilities will help you prepare for the New Normal.

I hope that this provides you with some initial ideas to think about as you consider operating your stores in the New Normal.

Join us this Friday, April 3rd at 11:30am EDT / 4:30pm GMT for a half-hour webinar where we will discuss more recommendations for how you should be approaching the next phase of this crisis in your stores.

We will continue to update our Coronavirus information on our Retail Responds site:


Michael Spataro

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