From Touchless Payments to ‘Quarantined’ Returns, Retail May Be Forever Changed

Eager shoppers will soon be able to browse their local retail stores as states continue to roll back stay-at-home orders. But instead of testing a swatch of lipsticks at a makeup counter or waiting in line to try on summer shorts, customers should expect “virtual try-on tools,” styling via app, shuttered fitting rooms, and returns that are quarantined for 72 hours.

Apple is the latest company to reopen stores, requiring face coverings for staff and customers, temperature checks at the door, conducting “health questions” to screen anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, and deep cleanings throughout the day.

“A store opening in no way means that we won’t take the preventative step of closing it again should local conditions warrant,” Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people, wrote in a blog post Sunday.

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With no vaccine for the coronavirus on the market, the role of the retail store has abruptly pivoted from a high-touch experience to safety and practicality as states begin to reopen nonessential businesses.

But now safety and convenience are paramount to retailers’ ability to recoup some of their losses over the last several weeks as bleary-eyed customers venture out of lockdown to shop, according to Christa Hart, a senior managing director with the business advisory firm FTI Consulting.

“Brands are particularly cautious about how they’re perceived about how they care about the customers’ safety and workers’ safety,” she said.

Companies such as Gap Inc, which is preparing to reopen 800 stores beginning with several stores in Texas, said it is implementing rigorous new cleaning routines throughout each store and will require workers to wear facial coverings. Like other retailers, Kohl’s is posting signs throughout the store encouraging customers to observe social distancing guidelines…  NBC News

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