Bill Kelly: Reopening retail amid coronavirus pandemic will be challenging

An employee at Zara puts up a sign during a phased reopening from COVID-19 restrictions in Toronto, May 19, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

In Ontario, we’ve moved into another phase of our economic recovery plan during the coronavirus pandemic with the opening of stores that have street frontage, and with it comes a different set of challenges for consumers.

Many of us are now used to the lineups at grocery stores and the LCBO and Beer Store, and we’re mostly adhering to standing in those designated physical-distancing spots while we check out.

But retail is different.

READ MORE: What shopping will look like as retail stores open across Canada

On Monday, I donned my gloves and face mask and ventured into my favourite bookstore, which just reopened this week.

As expected, I was greeted by a masked staffer with hand sanitizer, who cheerfully welcomed me and informed me that the washrooms are closed to the public and lounging in those sitting areas where so many people peruse books and set up laptops is, shall we say, discouraged.

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I certainly see the logic there, especially since gloves and face masks are still only optional in Ontario, but people like to take their time and browse in a bookstore, and these new rules may be a problem with potential customers.

Click to play video: 'How retailers need to adjust as businesses reopen' How retailers need to adjust as businesses reopen
How retailers need to adjust as businesses reopen – May 22, 2020

The same concerns will exist when clothing stores open.

Half the fun or shopping for clothing, I’m told, is the shopping — browsing around, trying on two or three potential purchases before making a decision.

How’s that going to work with physical-distancing protocols and probably no access to change rooms?

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Customers without masks can be refused service, experts agree

The protocols that will be used are onerous but necessary, especially since our commitment to stop the spread of the virus seems to be waning lately.

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But the message is clear: the COVID-19 style of retail shopping is not going to be easy for shoppers or shop owners.

Bill Kelly is the host of the Bill Kelly Show on Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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