As the United States grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, virtually the only certainty is that the landscape will shift.

That’s certainly true for retailers. First, all stores were closed. Then, some were allowed to open. Others went to curbside pickup or started utilizing contactless payment. Now, exactly how retailers are operating and what they’re doing to keep their facilities safe depends largely on where they are.

Kyle Freeman, VP of Client Relations for Vixxo, said that constant change means it’s difficult to know how to manage a facility.

“What’s made it really challenging is the variability that is across local and state governments. The mandates fluctuate, they’re up and down, and it makes it very tough to manage,” Freeman said. “Local governments are really stressing what those requirements are, so they’re really creating the behaviors and helping the retailers, but when they bounce up and down it makes it tough to manage.

“I think the facility managers, as well as the store teams, are [facing challenges] when it comes to making sure they’re in front of those.”

What the next step is from a local or national political leader hasn’t been the only tough step for retailers and facilities managers to predict. In a time of extreme mental stress, it’s tough to know exactly how customers are going to react and what their perceptions of a retail space will be.

They’ll look to see if a space has measures in place to keep them safe, said Nikki Boone, VP of Customer Success at Vixxo, but there also may be unease with even the most typical of retail displays.

“It goes back to the customer perception. I think the unknown for retailers right now as they’re planning for Halloween and Christmas and Thanksgiving is how customers are going to respond.” Boone said. “How much do we want to celebrate? How much do you want to put in a store to talk about festivities? And how do they balance that with, again, that kind of comfort and security that we also have all the products you need to ensure a safe environment in your home.

“We’re working closely with the retailers we work with to be very, very flexible, because they may find that the customer response is different than what they anticipated and need to shift configurations, shift space layouts and maybe even pull back some elements they took out to accommodate the seasonality.”

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