Business

Retail stores open this weekend with rules to limit virus, but not all shoppers are ready

Posted May 6, 2020 5:05 a.m. EDT
Updated May 6, 2020 9:02 p.m. EDT

— Mother’s Day weekend will be the first time in almost six weeks that many retailers can welcome customers into their stores.

The easing of restrictions on business activity during the statewide stay-at-home order doesn't necessarily mean that customers will immediately return, however.

"Non-essential" businesses like boutiques, gift shops, book stores, craft stores and others can reopen at 5 p.m. Friday at 50 percent of their allowed capacity. Retailers also must adhere to social distancing guidelines for customers and staff and frequently clean and disinfect their stores.

At Crabtree Valley Mall, hand sanitizer stations have been installed, and shoppers are encouraged to use sliding doors to avoid touching door handles. Also, the touch screen mall directory has been disabled, and children's play areas have been closed.

"All our employees will be wearing masks, and we will be disinfecting pens and keyboards and countertops and cleaning the entire store throughout the day," said Blake Ticknor, who manages his family’s clothing stores, including a location at Crabtree Valley Mall.

Many stores in the mall were still closed Wednesday, but Ticknor said he is ready to see his customers again – sales are down as much as a quarter for the year – and he expects they feel the same.

"I think it will be good for people to get out of the house," he said. "They are looking forward to putting on something other than sweatpants and being able to get out of the house again."

Some people said they're uneasy about heading out to a mall right now.

"[With] the amount of people that could be there, I don’t know. Something about it makes me feel uneasy. I wouldn’t, not right now, not yet," said Decymber Willis, who has shopped at "essential" stores in recent weeks.

Debby's Hallmark store, on Falls of Neuse Road in Raleigh, announced its plan to keep customers safe on Facebook. Masks will be required, a limited number of people will be allowed in the store and cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be increased.

The post had mixed reactions. Some customers said they were excited to hear the news and thanked the owner for doing everything possible to keep customers safe, while others said it’s too soon to reopen.

"I'll come back when masks aren't required and social distancing is over," one person wrote.

Other business owners opening this weekend said they understand customers' concerns.

"Honestly, what we’ve learned is there is going to be a new normal in retail," said Morgan Lashley, co-owner of Vestique at Park West Village in Morrisville. "Foot traffic is way down, and I think people just like myself are still to scared to go out. People are scared of the unknown, really."

Ticknor said his store will still offer curbside pick-up and home and office deliveries to customers who don't want to go inside.

"[We're available] whether you want to come to the store or you want the store to come to you," he said.

Triangle Town Center in Raleigh and Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville haven't released their reopening plans, nor has the Streets at Southpoint in Durham.

Although Durham County's stricter stay-at-home rules limiting retailers to curbside pick-up or deliveries remain in effect until May 15, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said Wednesday that the state order takes precedence. So, Durham retailers also will be allowed to reopen on Friday if they follow social distancing guidelines for staff and customers and adhere to strict cleaning protocols.

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