The Return of the High Street | Retail Appointments After COVID
Many non-essential retail shops are preparing to reopen and let customers back into their stores. In the United Kingdom, the 15 June marks the potential return of the high street, while in the United States, each state has its own approach to reopening retail stores, restaurant chains, and recreational facilities.
High street businesses can reopen if they adhere to the government’s COVID-19 social distancing and health and safety guidelines. Booking retail appointments will play a big role in a smooth transition to the post-COVID high street, not only to abide by the guidelines but also to manage demand and improve in-store customer experience.
The impact of COVID on retail
Following the COVID crisis, the high street shop has all but disappeared from peoples’ lives. At its worst, the pandemic caused a global 70% drop in booked retail appointments, but since the beginning of May, bookings in the retail sector started to rebound quickly. (See more details in the downloadable.)
This drop is for good reason; As COVID is highly infectious and both customers and retail staff need to be protected from the risk of infection. Some of these measures to protect people greatly reduce the supply and capacity of retail outlets. At the same time, customers want to go to the shops less through fear of infection and queues.
Simple steps to protect people such as contactless payments, perspex screens, and one way systems don’t disrupt capacity. Other measures such as social distancing drastically reduce capacity with knock-on effects for customers.
Many small shops cannot have more than one customer in them at a time to maintain their customers’ and staffs’ ability to distance themselves. Larger stores have exactly the same problem but at a larger scale with a significantly reduced capacity of the store.
The result is that open retail stores either have long queues or being practically empty – and as we’ve all experienced, fluctuate between these two states wildly. Due to this uneven distribution of foot traffic, retail chains and individual shops struggle to get to full, newly limited, capacity.
Customers are not only asking themselves if they need to take the viral risk to go shopping but also the time they risk spending in queues. If the shop isn’t completely necessary then the answer a lot of the time is simply to stay at home.
A final additional risk for retail given then change in customer behavior is that given all these uncertainties, why take the risk of paying to reopen when there might be no customers at all, so many shops are choosing to remain closed.
The solution is to allow customers to book retail appointments online before a visit. No queues, no social distancing issues, no staffing issues.
How can retail reopen after COVID-19?
Booking a retail appointment is a great solution gaining traction; Allowing customers to book online, in advance, means that they can arrive at an allocated slot knowing the store is open and ready for them. The business can pick the precise staff level for the demand they have on that day. These scheduled retail appointments can then tell a business when to open and when to be closed up.
Scheduling appointments has worked for sectors with limited capacity for years: Think restaurants, hair salons, or your mortgage appointment. 10to8 is seeing this simple tool now being used across the retail main street of the US and on the high street of the UK.
10to8 retail appointment scheduling software has been used by stores and other retail businesses for years. Historically this has been for in-store customer service, personal shopping, sales appointments (such as car test drives), or even online customer support. Now we are seeing an explosion in creative use to schedule and manage demand in the retail sector to protect staff, customers, and businesses in the emerging COVID era.
In our downloadable white paper, we look at the decline of the physical high street pre-COVID, measures introduced as a reaction to the pandemic, and the potential outcomes for the retail sector. We also explain how 10to8 is helping in all three stages.
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Matthew Cleevely founded 10to8 with a few friends to help simplify managing bookings and make the world a little bit more organized. He helps out where needed across the business in strategy, accounting, finance, compliance, fundraising, and people.
Outside of 10to8 he works with a wide range of high growth businesses to help them achieve their goals. He's also got an MEng in Engineering from Oxford and MPhil in Economics from Cambridge.
Anna is an enthusiastic Digital Marketer, who drinks her coffee with cream and trending hashtags. She loves a fun fact about koalas, listening to and speaking on insightful SaaS podcasts, and creating content that ranks high on the SERP. Connect with her on Linkedin.
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