Despite the soaring number of COVID-19 cases across the country, some states have started to end stay-at-home orders and ease the lockdowns on local economies. In the same way that every state had the power to create these lockdowns, they also get to decide how to ease restrictions.
Governments only have so much control over how society reacts to the eased lockdowns. Businesses, customers, and even local governments can change the reopening process. Keep reading to learn what to expect in the coming weeks so you can plan accordingly.
Don’t: Expect Every Business to Open Immediately
Since the beginning of lockdowns throughout the US, President Trump has talked about reopening America. The fact is, he has little control over when it does.
As some states loosen lockdown restrictions, many cities and counties have decided their jurisdictions should keep businesses closed. Even the individual owners of gyms, restaurants, and retail shops can decide to delay reopening until they feel safe doing so.
Some states are testing out different roll-out plans and prioritizing certain businesses that can operate following CDC guidelines. In Florida, for example, restaurants and retailers can open at 25% capacity.
Many businesses may decide that it is safer—and more affordable—to remain closed for now.
Instead of running a full kitchen and staff to cater to 25% of customers, most restaurants will likely continue promoting their carry-out options and wait until the guidelines loosen up.
Ultimately, you’ll need to do what is right for your business. Just because you can open doesn’t mean you must. It may be best for your finances and the safety of your employees and customers to remain closed for a few more weeks.
Don’t: Plan for All of Your Customers to Come Back at Once
The other challenge with “reopening the economy up” is that customers must decide when it is safe. In a Reuters-Ipsos poll released on April 21, 72% of Americans believe the quarantine measures should remain in place until public health officials determine it is safe. (This number breaks down to 88% for Democrats and 55% for Republicans.)
Just because your state is open for business doesn’t mean there will be a flood of customers. You very well could open your doors and see fewer shoppers than you expected.
Don’t be surprised if your community members remain at home and only leave the house in a limited capacity through May—and possibly even into June.
Do: Keep Promoting Your Lockdown Business Model
In early March, many businesses scrambled to create plans so they could stay open despite orders to close. Bookstores started curbside pickup and online ordering while restaurants and bars set up delivery services. As your state reopens, don’t be so quick to shelve these plans.
First, some people still may need to quarantine. Those with weakened immune systems and people who have been exposed to COVID-19 patients will need to keep distancing. Some customers may choose to continue distancing even after the lockdown passes.
Next, your pandemic emergency plan could change the way you approach business now. You may want to continue offering delivery long after the lockdowns end as a way to keep serving customers and adding value to your community. If you found a strategy that worked during the lockdown, it could still have value moving forward.
Other government leaders have noticed how the creativity of small business owners has helped them thrive these past few months. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas said he is in favor of extending carry-out alcohol beyond May 1. “From what I hear from Texans, we may just let this keep on going forever,” he tweeted.
Follow local ordinances and see how your pandemic changes can be used to grow your profits in the long run.
Do: Anticipate Changes to How Customers Interact With Businesses
Just because stores are opening doesn’t mean everything is business as usual. Many states expect store owners to follow strict guidelines for capacity, social distancing, and sanitization.
You can win over customers by following these steps and going above and beyond to make shoppers feel safe and comfortable. For example, you can set up markers in your check-out area to encourage people to stand 6 feet away. You can post notices about your sanitization practices around the store to make customers more informed. These are small steps, but they have a big impact on your brand.
As a business owner, you should also consider how people will shop differently. Masks and gloves will still be common sights throughout the country. There will be less browsing and handling of items before purchasing them. Use the behavior of your customers to guide your choices when opening your store.
In the same way that there was no dedicated roadmap for states to close, there isn’t a unified plan for how they should open. We won’t know which states made the right choices for their residents and their local businesses until several months after this pandemic passes. In the meantime, do what you think is best for your business, your employees, and your customers.