Retailers Group Outlines Safe Reopening

A statewide trade group sent a letter to elected officials outlining a four-phase plan for the reopening of businesses across Michigan.

Bill Hallan, president and CEO of the Lansing-based Michigan Retailers Association, drafted the letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as well as several state lawmakers with the goal of building a partnership to allow a safe reopening for both employees and customers as well as easing some of the financial burdens business owners have experienced since the governor’s restrictions due to COVID-19.

“The shutdown of any industry is devastating, and retail is no different,” Hallan told Greater Lansing Business Monthly. “Our members operate on thin margins and many will struggle to rebound from the current situation. Finding the proper balance between economic activity and community health will be essential to avoid the immediate and long-term implications of a second COVID-19 wave. We will continue to work with Governor Whitmer to ensure that any necessary actions are reasonable so that retailers have a prosperous path forward.”

The association’s four-phase plan — the first phase of which the Michigan Retailers Association had hoped would start May 1 — outlines both what types of businesses would be permitted in each phase as well as a detailed list of recommended safeguards to be implemented in each phase.

  • Phase 1 would allow contactless ship-from-store transactions for all products based on online or phone orders. Minimal contact curbside pickup at stores or home delivery transactions based on online or phone orders would also be allowed in this phase.

Among the safeguards recommended are a minimum numbers of employees, health screenings, social distancing guidelines and sanitation guidelines.

  • Phase 2 would be determined by health officials when small group interaction is allowed. This phase would permit in-store and mall shopping as well as continued curbside pickup and home delivery.

Many of the recommended safeguards remain the same as the first phase with additional safety measures added such as a limit on the number of customers in a store, floor markings to ensure social distancing, installation of plexiglass barriers and enhanced monitoring for social distancing adherence.

  • Phase 3, also to be determined by health officials for increased group interaction, would see increased relaxation on some of the restrictions in the second phase such as limiting the number of employees and customers. It would also allow cleaning/sanitization at intervals instead of between each customer.
  • Phase 4 would be a return to normal operations but with continued efforts to ensure customer and employee safety.

“We can hopefully avoid future business closures through the adoption of best practices and mitigation efforts,” Hallan said. “In the meantime, retailers should prepare for remote, online sales. We’ve encouraged our members to add additional e-commerce functionality to their websites and engage with their loyal customers through social platforms if they haven’t already done so. Retailers are entrepreneurs; many have already started shifted inventory geared toward home-based activities or outdoor gatherings. While the industry is resilient, we need to start to get back to normal.”

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