COVID-19

Brick-and-mortar retail has a COVID-19 cleaning problem

Kristin Schwab Mar 12, 2020
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How is Sephora handling people sharing makeup samples in store during the COVID-19 pandemic? Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images for SephoraXKaufhof
COVID-19

Brick-and-mortar retail has a COVID-19 cleaning problem

Kristin Schwab Mar 12, 2020
How is Sephora handling people sharing makeup samples in store during the COVID-19 pandemic? Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images for SephoraXKaufhof
HTML EMBED:
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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

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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