covid signs

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Reimagining events in today’s world

After a long year, a lessening of the most frustrating COVID restrictions may bring some breathing room into your retail plans, including adding special promotions to your schedule. In the past, many of you created strong promotional events all around your sales areas. It looks like you’ll be able to do that again, but with some expected changes. 

Events With Precautions

In April, the CDC said that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from contaminated surfaces or objects is considered to be low, and constantly disinfecting your hands or the merchandise isn’t as vital as originally thought. But most people are used to using cleansers and have discovered they are getting colds and other viruses less often thanks to this simple precaution. Many of your customers will continue to appreciate seeing wipes or pump bottles of sanitizer in your store.

Many have also grown highly cautious about getting close to people. During special events, continue keeping space between units as well as people. Rick Campbell from Spa Logic in Portland, Oregon, has been in the business for more than 20 years. In the pre-COVID past, Spa Logic would have tent sales and off-site events fairly frequently. This April, they opened a new store in Tigard, Oregon, with a grand opening tent sale in their parking lot. They held the same sale in their two other locations and sold 72 units in a 10-day time frame. They are planning another set of off-site sales for July, August and September.

I asked Campbell if he designs his outdoor events differently with COVID in mind. In the past, he would cluster units but now spreads each hot tub apart, so while a salesperson and shoppers are looking at one spa, others can comfortably look at another at least 6 feet away.

While Campbell is aware the new guidelines aren’t calling for such strict cleaning measures, he makes sure there is hand sanitizer visible and available around the event space. His salespeople clean high-touch surfaces such as doors, handles, grab bars on the spas or any area that gets a lot of hands-on contact. He also provides masks for people who forgot theirs. He makes sure there are clean pens for each customer along with a “dirty pen” box. He joked that pre-COVID there would be only one pen in the store, chewed on by one guy and stuck behind the ear of another. He likes the many pens solution far better.

Campbell says he is always thinking about the customer experience and how he can make it as comfortable, safe and pleasant as possible.

Special Events

  • Continue to have wipes and/or pump bottles of hand disinfectant on tables or cubes around the event area.
  • Respect people’s personal space and give them 6 feet, even as regulations ease up.
  • Spread out your spa units and your closing tables.
  • Cleanse high-touch areas like knobs, handles, etc.
  • Continue to wear and offer masks.
  • Have clear, big safety requirements in high-contrast signage that can be seen from at least 10 feet away.
  • Understand individual, personal beliefs and differences, and try to stay neutral and calm.
  • Your job is to create an inviting, safe, clean space for all people to buy your spas.

Behaviors learned and adapted during the past year will likely continue for a long time. People have now been socially distancing for about 18 months. For some who are at high risk of infection or who feel very anxious, mingling with unvaccinated people still feels dangerous. Once more people are vaccinated, their anxiety level may decrease but there will continue to be a percentage of your customers who want to wear their masks and use the disinfecting wipes or liquid. Their caution needs to be honored by you and your staff.

Even though the CDC deemed masks unnecessary for vaccinated people as of mid-May, the thought and fear of a variant of the virus will keep many people careful for far longer than the government mandates.

Policy Signs for Events

Unfortunately, most people don’t see or even look for event signs. Often, a retailer or office will clearly state their policy on a front door or inside wall, then the employees get annoyed when customers ignore it.

It’s also possible customers cannot properly read signs from the parking lot. The other day I had to bring my cat to the vet. There was a small sign on the front window that I could barely see from my parking space right in front of the door. So, rather than straining my eyes, I took my cat out of the car and hauled him to the front door, where a young woman angrily motioned me back to my car. She pointed to the sign, which I could still barely see. Apparently, I was supposed to call from my car, but the number and wording were tiny. It was not a fun experience for me, her or the cat.

If you want people to see your signs, make them BIG and BOLD. Little and chic won’t cut it. Have strong contrast between the lettering and the background. Black on white, black on yellow, navy blue, deep brown — any dark color on a light color will work best. Have letters at least 3 inches high if you want customers to read them from the parking lot. Four to 6 inches is even better — not attractive but far more effective.

Wearing a mask and getting vaccinated have both become political issues along with health measures. As a retailer, Campbell advises to respect whatever comfort and belief regarding the severity of COVID-19 customers are living and feeling. Keep your beliefs and politics out of the equation. Safe is always better than sorry, so if you desire to follow the original rules, do so. Customers, for the most part, will appreciate your care.