Brick & mortar social distancing ideas


Let's exchange Ideas how small brick & mortar stores are going to open with social distancing.


We are a small childrens boutique.  The main shopping area is 14' x 40'.  Small and packed with product.

We are thinking of:

- initially doing a 'soft' opening by appointment   and/or  letting only a few people in the store at a time

- requiring masks to get in the store

- having gloves for customers so they can touch things, discarding when they leave

- disinfecting after each customer (door handles, product, etc)  


Some other ideas my neighbors have are:

- setting up a table outside and not having people in the store at all


What are others thinking about doing once we can open again???

Look forward to hearing from you....




I forgot to put a note in the original post.....
  ...  Hoping to hear from other STORES on their approaches...not vendors selling APPS..

Thank you for your cooperation on this.

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You already use Shopify to sell online, right?

Are you considering curbside pickup?

Make a window sign now with a link/QR code for your online store in addition to any other advertising.


We have no online presence, we're new to Shopify and we're a store with a huge and varied inventory.  So we're planning on doing 2 things.

  • Sell Gift Certificates now, at a 10 % discount, since we aren't open or shipping product.   They can redeem them for anything in our physical stores or online store later.  We have a very big local following so they don't mind waiting.  Accounting and fraud prevention will be a pain since we use different software in our physical store, but it's manageable.
  • Putting together Gift Bags of out most popular items, plus doing single-items listing of other popular things and selling those for curbside pickup.  We'll keep that going once we're open because we will have to limit physical crowds.  We'll also start shipping items once we have access to our building again.

Can you sell a "personal shopping appointment?"  20 minutes in your store with a staff member?  Sell it as an experience not an inconvenience.  "Enjoy a one-on-one personal shopping experience with out staff.  They will help you find the best/most unique thingamabobs to fit your needs.  The fee for this service is X, and we will also give you a 10% discount on any purchases during your visit."

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I think requiring gloves&masks is a good all around precaution if your area has the supplies.

When providing gloves remember to have latex and NON-latex gloves and make sure to bring this up with customers to avoid allergic reactions.


One advantage shopify merchants have here is letting customers browse instore and the ability to have them to do the checkout online with thier phones, depending on audience of course because this could also just be confusing to some in store visitors.

For high touch products doing instore-shop->online-pay could help staff be a bit safer by reducing the amount of contact-transfer customerA->staffgloves->customerB.


Some of the general precautions I've seen in different places including my area but not all at once:

  • Stand spots and distance markers inside and outside the store.
  • Markers to indicate where to place orders, or barriers to prevent standing close to the counter
  • Plastic partitions(aka sneeze guards) hung from the cieling or on stands glued to the counter between staff and customers
  • Partitioning off areas of the store, covering parts of the inventory on the shelf or covering them all entirely.
  • Blocking excess parking spots or every other one in dense parking lots.
  • Hand sanitizer near any high touch area
  • Terminals covered in saranwrap and regularly changed
  • Signature pens and terminal styluses regularly cleaned
  • Scanning devices and bags, rotated out so customers can scan items themselves and bag items
  • Manual entry of items by staff on the POS where people can't scan themselves to reduce contact-transfer.
  • Door propped open so kickplates are earning thier keep and handles aren't being used.
  • stores with aisles making them be one way walking, for each row.

I'm not sure if clothing racks being in garmet bags is worthwhile, just a thought since i'm not a big clothes shopper.



- setting up a table outside and not having people in the store at all

A local steakhouse is doing a tiny popup in a relatively big parking lot like this for thier sauces along with regular online orders, or maybe their using the sauces on increase online orders 🤔. 

May want to read over basic popup shops articles to try and get ahead of the roadbumps in normal circumstances :

Though if you haven't done anything like it before definitely do a test run like afterhours while the store is closed making the popup on the showroom and do some test orders|refunds,etc, , a hudson bay start.

If you only have a small sidewalk keeping people apart could be tricky , and depending on bureaucracy in your area be prepared to talk to code-enforcement, or your landlord.


Depending on how savy you think your shoppers are consider using QR codes to cut down on the amount of product to huff around outside, or to slim down inside. Make leaflet photos with the QRcodes for customers to pick out and scan with thier own phone or bring to the tables sales-rep: 

Again test runs help immensely.


That could also help with making more foot space and distance if you have a Small and packed with product  problem.

Take the low volume to the back so you can empty or remove shelves&racks, which also lowers the amount of stuff being touched.

Then bring it out low volume stuff on request, or only on leaflet scan to indicate purchase intent.

Depends on size of back-area though and level of precautions you think you need to take.






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Missed this in my original reply:

Here are some of the physical precautions we're taking:

  • Main door propped open to increase airflow, with ropes and arrows directing traffic into and out of the store (our store is inside another building.  Which will be limiting it's capacity, so also limiting our customer base).
  • Decluttered the entire store by removing extra displays and bins - we'll have lower visitor volume so we can just display fewer of each item and keep all our stock out.  We started with generous aisles, but we're removing as many small freestanding fixtures as possible to enable more distance.
  • Taped waiting spots for our line - AND a sign at the end of the line asking people to come back later if there are no waiting spots - AND signage along the wait line linking our shopify site for gift bags/online ordering.  We'll offer 1 hour pickup if they call us after an order processes.
  • Disinfecting every surface that won't be destroyed by cleaners at least once a day.  Especially counters, toy shelves, phone and credit card touchpads.
  • Signage right above our card swipe reminding people it accepts contactless and Apple Pay.
  • Hand sanitizer at the counters for anyone to use.  We don't have a way to attach it near the doors.  (anchored, unfortunately since people steal it from us if we don't attach it to the counter)
  • Masks for all staff, gloves if they want to wear them.  We offered to order face shields, but they didn't want to wear them.
  • Acrylic shields on our register counters, like this Image
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Sorry for the delay in response.  I just got notice of a reply to my post today!  Yikes.


Anyway, we did the following for the month of May:

- Online store:  we do have an online store and the months of Apr and most of May kept us alive. Sales down about 50% from prev year. The end of
  May sales have dropped drastically and we are scrambling on a daily basis now. We also had ads running during that time which helped.  Have stopped
  them as of a few weeks ago since $$ is tight.

- Personal shopping appointments:  that worked fairly well, but people were hesitant to go out at all.  Moderatly successful

- We did the gift certificate thing and that was moderately successful.

- We did a 'soft open'  over the last few weeks:  open only 11-5,  6 days a week (normal hrs are 11-7, 7 days). Foot traffic is minimal at best at this time as
  the restaurants are not open for 'eat in' here in Portland OR yet.  People who do walk by seem to be hesitant to come in. 


We are following all the COVID 'rules' in place for small businesses, but I think at this time people are not spending much since they are not sure how
long this all will last. 

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@donnamac Personal shopping appointments...

Super interested in anecdotes or hard data about this model.

Were you doing such appointments before?

Were these in person or virtual appointments?

 If not doing virtual meetings was it considered or dismissed outright if so why? Just physical nature of cloth shopping?



Say the pandemic continued or worsened and Personal shopping just became a reality would you be able to travel to the customer?

If the pandemic is over, and traffic was normal, was it PSA's successful enough that you'll keep doing it, or even prefer it over normal walk-in?

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Thanks for the QR code suggestion.  I had to use that at a restaurant the other day...super simple.

We are going to look into that.


We were not doing PSA's before COVID-19.

In April we began to offer 'in person' and virtual appointments.

 - We had about a dozen people actually schedule them.  One person scheduled appts 4 times.
 - Overall, it was worth it for us as it resulted in > $1000 of sales.

 - We did no 'facetime' virtual appts.  The closest we came to 'virtual' was over the phone discussion; sending pics via text, also pics
   of 'bundles' of clothes that went well together.  Those calls did result in a sale. 

 - We will keep the option for a PSA for the near future.  We have always worked with people over the phone for those who are
    uncomfortable with internet purchases.  So that will not change. We will probably have to schedule them outside shop hours
    though.  Need to work that out.


To answer your questions:


Say the pandemic continued or worsened and Personal shopping just became a reality would you be able to travel to the customer?

Yes, we could travel to the customer, however, we sell kids clothes/shoes mainly.  We would need to have an idea from the customer what they
need to look at first, so we can selectively take product/sizes they would be interested in.  A tough one, as usually once a customer comes in and
looks at our selection they often select something they were not looking at because once they see what we offer, they change their mind.  A tough one.


We have discussed what the future might bring - even if we can afford to stay in a brick & mortar due to rent, etc.  The possibility of a mobile
store,  or constant pop-ups (which we were scheduled to do one in May - bummer), etc.   The discussion will continue however, as we see

things to be very unsure in the coming months.  We have alot of product.  A mobile store would be tough, but we like the idea.


Hope this helps


If the pandemic is over, and traffic was normal, was it PSA's successful enough that you'll keep doing it, or even prefer it over normal walk-in?

We will keep PSA's for the near future but probably schedule outside our 'open' hours or when we have employees back on payroll so they can
have a dedicated person with them.  We have always gone above and beyond in helping our customers over the phone to shop, so that will never
go away.  However, we do not plan on having a way that customers can signon and schedule a PSA via an app.  Selling is still a very interactive
event for a small business and we think it will always stay that way.  Customers love it.  So, in the future, we will probably not advertise a PSA option.

Customers can always call and ask though and we will do what we can to help them.




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We did activate the 'curbside pickup' option and customers love it.  Our local customers are using that most of the time even
though we are 'partially' open now.