6 Things To Know About Retail Stores Reopening In Mass.

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The Frugal Bookstore in Nubian Square. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Frugal Bookstore in Nubian Square. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

You will soon be able to go shopping at many retail stores in Massachusetts.

Bookstores, clothing shops and other retailers will be allowed to open their doors to customers in phase two of the state's reopening plan — which could start as early as June 8, depending on health data.

Retailers were allowed to do curbside pick-up during phase one of the reopening. The shift to in-store sales will come with some restrictions due to the pandemic. Here's what you need to know about stores reopening.:

1. Which retail stores will be open?

All retail stores are allowed to open under the state's reopening plan. However, it's possible some stores will delay reopening to the general public or may not open at all, according to Jon Hurst of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. He said he expects the reopening of retail shops will be a slow process.

"Some may just choose to continue to do curbside. Others may decide to do by appointment only," Hurst said. "Others may not open at all for the time being to wait and see — what is the reaction of customers? Are they indeed coming back to stores, or are they waiting this out a longer period for several more weeks or even months?"

Hurst said about 30% of the 4,000 businesses his organization represents report they don't think they can survive the pandemic.

"Unfortunately, there are also going to be those stores that, and restaurants that, unfortunately never will reopen," Hurst said.

2. Will stores have limited hours?

Some stores may choose to limit their hours — as many essential businesses already have during the pandemic. The state is encouraging retail stores to offer exclusive shopping hours for high-risk populations, such as older customers. Grocery stores and pharmacies are already required to offer at least one hour of dedicated shopping time to people over 60.

And just because stores reopen doesn't mean you have to hit the shops. The state is also encouraging shoppers to opt for delivery, curbside pickup or appointment-only shopping if those options are available.

3. How many people will be allowed inside stores?

Stores have to limit the number of people to 40% of their prior capacity, or no more than 8 people per 1,000 square feet (including staff) — whichever is greater. This is to make sure people have enough space to keep the proper distance from each other. Grocery stores already have capacity limits, so you can expect to see similar lines — with markings 6 feet apart — for customers waiting their turn to go inside.

Shopping malls are also allowed to reopen in phase two, but they are required to limit common areas to 40% capacity. Mall amenities like children's play areas, arcades and seating in food courts will remain closed. And if you do head to the mall, keep in mind that food vendors and restaurants are only allowed to offer take-out or delivery.

4. Are there new rules for shoppers in stores?

Shopping will certainly be different during the pandemic. Store fitting rooms will be closed, so if you find something you like, you'll have to try it on at home. Retailers also won't be allowed to offer samples of food or personal goods, like perfume or makeup.

Overall, you can expect to see similar changes in retail stores to what you've already seen in many grocery stores and pharmacies. Retailers are required to install physical barriers at checkout stations, put down markers to ensure customers are 6 feet apart in lines, and make aisles one-way where possible to direct the flow of foot traffic.

And don't forget, everyone is required to wear a mask or face covering. Also, reusable bags are still prohibited.

5. What are the new safety protocols for retail stores?

Businesses are required to have hand sanitizer available for customers and workers to use. They're also required to disinfect equipment, such as cash registers. Retailers also have to clean and disinfect their stores at least daily — even reducing hours to allow time to do so. And stores must also frequently clean high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, as well as highly trafficked areas, such as bathrooms.

6. Are there safety guidelines in place for workers?

Yes. Businesses are required to train workers on safety measures aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus, including proper hand-washing and self-screening for symptoms. Workers should stay home if they are sick. If there is a positive coronavirus case, retailers must notify the local board of health and shut down for a deep cleaning.

Retailers are also required to install physical barriers between workers' stations, and close or reconfigure common spaces to ensure workers can maintain a physical distance from one another. Workers must also be given adequate cleaning products. And stores must avoid having workers share equipment, and they are supposed to adjust shifts to reduce contact between staff.

This segment aired on June 4, 2020.


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Zeninjor Enwemeka Senior Business Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a senior business reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.



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