Welcome to The Backroom, your window into what goes on behind the scenes as the Retail Dive team covers the stories and trends reshaping retail. You can check out all our podcast episodes (past and present) here and listen on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and Spotify.
Retailers over the last several months have integrated increased cleaning protocols and other measures in an attempt to keep both customers and associates safe.
As nonessential stores started reopening after being temporarily shuttered to stem the spread of COVID-19, nearly every retailer required associates to wear masks, while some encouraged customers to do the same.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association, an industry group, earlier this month sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging the administration to issue federal guidelines around mask usage. But the administration, as well as many governors and mayors nationwide, has yet to enforce mandates requiring face coverings in public.
So — in a wave led by the industry's biggest player, Walmart — retailers are taking the issue into their own hands and introducing requirements themselves.
It's a fine line for a retailer to walk, especially as masks have increasingly become politicized and, in some cases, have led to in-store confrontations between associates and customers.
As cases continue to surge across the country, though, retailers are left with little choice as the threat of another lockdown looms.
Senior reporters Daphne Howland and Ben Unglesbee break down what the requirements — and lack of requirements — mean for the industry moving forward.