Brick-and-mortar retail has a COVID-19 cleaning problem
Share Now on:
As COVID-19 ramps up across the country, brick-and-mortar retailers are stuck between a bit of a rock and a hard place. They want customers to be safe but they also need them to shop. So what are they doing to get customers in stores?
That whole don’t touch your face thing? Shoppers at a Sephora in Manhattan are not having it. They’re dipping their fingers into eyeshadow and blush. Mariana Saddakni, for example, was testing foundation.
“Makeup goes to your face, you’re not supposed to touch your face, people are touching makeup and now I’m touching my face,” Saddakni said. “So now I’m feeling very guilty that I’m doing a bad thing, even though I washed my hands before.”
Throughout the store, employees are cleaning. One worker wiping down a makeup display told me to test products on my hands. Another gave me hand sanitizer on my way out.
And Sephora isn’t the only one stepping up cleaning. Target says it’s cleaning checkout lanes every 30 minutes. Starbucks has banned travel mugs. SoulCycle is waiving last minute cancellation fees.
Barbara Kahn, professor of marketing at The Wharton School, said all that matters.
“First of all, it does literally matter,” she said. “And second of all, it shows that they understand what the issues are.”
Kahn said in-person shopping is increasingly about building loyalty through experience. And experience includes feeling safe. Kahn said that sends a message that will outlast the virus itself.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?
It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.
How are Americans spending their money these days?
Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.
What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?
Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”
Marketplace is on a mission.
We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.
Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?