As the novel Coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented health phenomenon, has swept across the world, retailers have been severely impacted. As a result, most non-essential businesses were forced to close their doors temporarily. Others must adapt to stringent social distancing guidelines, implementing online, drive-through, delivery, drop-off, or pick-up service options. Out of survival necessity, many employees have had hours severely reduced or entirely removed. Still, many retailers struggle to survive.
Amid the retail survival struggle, employee and customer safety is of utmost importance. Once measures have been taken to ensure the health of those interacting in the retail environment, retailers should explore available resources for thriving once the economy is revitalized.
In the content below, we explore helpful COVID-19 resources for retailers, offer guidance for reopening stores, and discuss available fiscal resources for business survival.
National Retail Federation: Operation Open Door
Led by the National Retail Federation (NRF), Operation Open Door is a comprehensive plan to reopen retail doors. The detailed Operation Open Doors checklist is a valuable resource for retailers who want to begin preparation. The checklist explores key categories including employment, logistics, operations, and health policy.
A few concepts in the checklist are intended to be considered well in advance of re-opening your business after the close of social distancing! Below are among the most urgent considerations for any retailer preparing to re-open.
Appoint a return to work team.
Consider staff members who are company-wide decision makers. If new roles and responsibilities should be created and assigned, begin evaluating these changes. Furthermore, if a COVID-19 guideline book is written, all team members should revisit it to ensure practices adhere to any policy revisions.
Determine transition plan.
Decide whether you will re-open and re-hire as soon as legally allowed, or if you will implement a phased approach. Depending on location, this process may already have federal legal regulations in place.
Determine which shelter-in-place law and orders apply.
“Shelter-in-Place” and “Return to Work” orders differ by jurisdiction. As a retailer, your specific employee and customer safety directives should be monitored and adhered to. To help retailers remain current with the latest laws and regulations, the NRF created an interactive 50-state tracker. As a result, retailers should regularly refer to policy changes over time and adjust their re-opening plan accordingly.
Identify who returns to work and when.
Re-hiring employees is a complex process that requires careful strategy. Consider your transition plan, the amount of re-hire notice time you will provide, how many employees can be in the store at once, and whether any traditional in-store roles can be performed remotely.
Workplace policies and other practices; training.
After the curve of COVID-19 has passed, the economy may neither recover nor return to its original state. Policies, best practices, and health measures will be updated in accordance with new protocol. Therefore, establish and implement a plan that thoroughly trains employees on updated policy.
Decide which facilities open.
Selecting which facilities to re-open involves an economic analysis, co-tenancy considerations, evaluation of the landlord/tenant relationship, sublease/ assignment/ give back/ repurposing opportunities, and retrofit. Each of these subpoints are discussed in further detail within the Operation Open Doors checklist, referenced above.
Preparing the store or facility for opening.
Preparing facilities in advance for re-opening will prepare your store for future success. If your properties are leased, work to make sure you can access the property in advanced and make it return-to-work ready. Inspect facilities for damage. Clean and prepare equipment. Consider any facility enhancements. Consider procedure for use of escalators and elevators, if applicable. Establish protocol for monitoring store occupancy, and identify a proper location for occupant health screening, if applicable.
The complete collection of Operation Open Doors resources are available at the National Retail Federation website.
The CARES Act
The CARES Act includes a variety of benefits for retailers impacted by COVID-19. Below, we explore four primary provisions to reduce the economical and corporate impact brought by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
For retail businesses with under 500 employees, the PPP offers a forgivable Small Business Administration loan. Restaurants, hospitality businesses, self-employed individuals, and certain nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees also quality for the PPP. The entire loan encompasses $350 billion dollars.
Regarding larger retail companies, the Federal Reserve can provide $4.5 trillion in relief. Retailers can apply for the PPP through existing SBA lenders or participating federally insured depository institutions, credit unions, or Farm Credit System institutions. Retailers should consult with local lenders to determine program participation.
The PPP also increases SBA Express loans from $350,000 to $1 million.
Finally, the SBA outlines important loan forgiveness qualifications:
The loan will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees… Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease… This loan has a maturity of 2 years and an interest rate of 1%.
If you haven’t already, download a copy of the PPP application form to review all necessary borrower forms.
Retail Worker Unemployment Insurance
The CARES Act expanded unemployment insurance to include an additional $600 per week to the standard amount. Furthermore, unemployment insurance will be offered retail workers for 39 weeks instead of 26.
Relief for Retailer Workers & Consumers
Both retail workers and consumers will receive one-time checks of $1,200 per adult (or $2,400 for married couples). Children and dependents under the age of 18 receive $500.
Employee Retention Tax Credit
The Employee Retention Tax Credit is designed to encourage retailers to retain employees on payroll. Ultimately, the goal is to regain the losses of this year in a profitable future. Furthermore, the Retention Tax Credit increased the deduction of interest on retail business loans.
Enhance Retail Security with Sennco Solutions
At Sennco Solutions, we are first and foremost concerned with the health of our employees and clients. We are also concerned with future profitability. As retailers prepare to re-open, heightened merchandise security will be an important consideration for loss prevention – and heightened customer experience.
To get in contact with our team about our retail loss solutions, please call at 866.736.6261 or reach out via our online contact form!