How Has Social Distancing Changed Retail?

Shopping as we know it has changed, as more businesses are closing their doors, and e-commerce is picking up.

COVID-19 has caused significant economic impacts already across several industries. According to projections from the Congressional Research Service, the pandemic could slow economic growth around the globe by 2% per month, and global trade could fall by 13 to 32%. But broad impacts of the pandemic won’t be fully known for months and perhaps years.

And even while restrictions are lifted around the country, consumers aren’t overwhelmingly ready to shift back into an ordinary landscape of in-person interactions. In a recent survey of 1,800 readers of the Hustle, just 37% of respondents said they’d feel comfortable returning to work as soon as possible, and 33% percent said they would feel comfortable dining outside.

Non-essential retailers have had to move much of their operations online, if possible, and some are offering contact-free delivery or collection. Other essential businesses have had to update their policies and practices to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Here are the top ways the world of retail has already changed because of social distancing.

Stricter regulations for essential stores

Grocery stores and other essential retailers (like pharmacies) have remained open to serve their communities with necessary products and services. However, even these stores have seen impacts that may continue to be prevalent for many months ahead.

Changes include:

  • Reserving certain hours each day for senior citizen communities and other populations that are at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus
  • Stricter sanitizing procedures
  • Temperature taking before staff members are allowed to work
  • Reporting requirements if employees have symptoms of COVID-19
  • Implementing distancing requirements (6 feet apart) for staff and customers

Another change is that more consumers are using grocery delivery services. Fewer people are entering grocery stores to buy their products, and more people working for these delivery apps.

Increase in sales for some retailers

Data from Criteo showed that even with social distancing requirements in place, certain parts of the retail sector saw growth, including beauty, home goods, and pet supplies.

These increases are indicators that consumers wanted to be prepared for the additional time spent at home and stocked up on necessities and products that would be used more frequently.

According to ACI Worldwide data, most retail sectors saw a transactional increase of 74% in March 2020, compared to the same period last year. In addition, online gaming providers saw an increase of 97%.

Other soaring markets are athletic clothing and loungewear, and home goods like indoor potted plants also spiked.

At the beginning of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, sales of paper products like toilet paper also increased.

A move to e-commerce

Small and large businesses have shifted their focus from brick-and-mortar to online sales. The pandemic has forced many companies to update their business plans and change the way they do business.

And brands with mobile apps may do even better in the current climate. One story, published by CO from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that a wine and market in New Jersey saw a 750% increase in their mobile app usage in less than a month.

Mobile was already an important consideration, even before the pandemic—about half of all web traffic was mobile.

Many businesses across the country were already considering growing their online sales. Even as social distancing restrictions ease, people are still worried about shopping in person. There is no doubt that more small businesses will continue to turn to e-commerce to keep their businesses afloat.

Greater need for social distancing signage and PPE

Retailers now require high-quality social distancing signage to communicate to customers and promote best practices. Types of signage that are essential for stores include:

  • Floor decals indicating how far apart customers need to stand in line or where to wait
  • Signs detailing sanitation and hand-washing best practices
  • Indicators of where customers can enter and exit, or pick up certain items
  • Communication of new enforced policies, such as mask wearing or temperature taking
  • Posting of new store hours
  • Sneeze guards and guard shields
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Face masks

Employees also need to be equipped with the right gear to protect themselves and others. The Corporate Graphic Center (TCGC) provides PPE like FDA-approved masks, hand sanitizer, and shields and partitions, in addition to a wide selection of social distancing printing solutions. These products help retailers prepare for the transition back to in-store shopping as restrictions ease around the country.

Contact TCGC or shop for social distancing solutions online today.

We would love to learn about your company and help you create a memorable experience. Call 954.838.9318 or email us

Gaby Thierer

Gaby founded TCGC in 2002 shortly after she immigrated from Argentina. Following her family’s blueprint, Gaby has been working in the printing industry since only 12 years old. Over the years she has worked with thousands of companies helping making their brand memorable.

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