- Two leading retail industry organizations representing major retailers such as Target and Walmart are urging governors to issue uniform, statewide protocols for retailers to reopen stores when COVID-19 quarantine restrictions subside.
- The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the National Retail Federation (NRF) outlined a phased-in approach to reopening retail. The blueprint recommends starting with e-commerce, contactless curbside pickup and home delivery; followed by reopening stores to the public with reduced occupancy and social distancing; and lastly, establishing protection and eventually lifting all restrictions.
- The Blueprint for Shopping Safe was released April 27. The three-phased plan to keep employees and customers safe incorporated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and benchmarking by leading retailers, according to the organizations.
The White House released guidelines April 16 on the three phases of Opening Up America Again in regard to states' shelter-in-place orders and business closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governors should document a "downward trajectory" in novel coronavirus cases for at least two weeks prior to beginning the three phases, according to the White House.
Workers in a variety of industries, however, have demanded safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Thousands of Instacart workers walked off the job March 30 in a protest organized by Gig Workers Collective, an organization that represents the interests of gig economy workers, demanding more protection measures from the company. In April, Instacart began distributing health and safety kits to its full-service shoppers, which include hand sanitizers, face masks and thermometers, reported Grocery Dive, Retail Dive's sister publication.
The essential service industries, while serving as an example for the retail blueprint, have struggled to balance worker safety with stark increases in demand. In the past few months, workers at meat-processing plants across the country have tested positive for novel coronavirus and some succumbed to the disease, according to Food Dive, Retail Dive's sister publication. As a result, many of the plants have shut down production. In response, using the Defense Production Act, President Donald Trump signed an executive order April 29, which states "the Department of Agriculture is directed to ensure America's meat and poultry processors continue operations uninterrupted to the maximum extent possible."
While retailers are not functioning under executive orders to open, those that have had to remain open as essential services have also pioneered a safety response. Walmart announced March 30 it would take the temperatures of associates as they report to work, and on April 17 it announced that all associates are required to wear masks or other face coverings at work.
"Groceries, pharmacies and other retailers that have remained open have implemented practices and protocols that are keeping employees and communities safe," Brian Dodge, RILA president said in a statement. "The Blueprint released today builds off those successful operating practices."
NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay added that it's critical for stores to have "consistent guidelines — without overburdensome regulatory schemes — across all levels of government."
To help decrease the spread of COVID-19, retailers have temporarily closed stores and reduced hours. In recent days some retailers and malls have taken steps towards a gradual reopening. Best Buy said it will resume some services and open stores in jurisdictions where it is permitted starting in May. Chico's said it would open stores in three phases beginning May 4. Chico's outlined steps similar to those recommended by NRF and RILA. Simon Property Group said it will begin a "phased reopening" of its mall properties in the coming weeks, contingent on state and regional closure orders.