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Learning from Grocers as Lockdowns Ease

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

Grocery stores and food markets have been open throughout the lockdowns and shelter in place orders. They have had to come up with new procedures, signs and protocols to ensure proper physical distancing in order to keep their staff and customers safe. As countries beginning easing lockdowns, a new normal will continue to evolve for how we shop. Groceries and market places have already implemented several design solutions to maintain appropriate social distancing. Some of these could be used as additional businesses begin to open.

Building trust in businesses is important, as many customers may be concerned about safety measures in place. One way to instill this is for stores to take care of their essential floor staff. By providing them with proper safety equipment and protocols to protect, establishments demonstrate not only their care for their employees but also a dedication to their customers, which may result in more loyalty. Several businesses requested patience with service delivery delays as they wanted to ensure the safety of their employees. Clear and actionable instructions also aid in customers following rules in stores. Signs, visual cues and prompts assist in maintaining safe social distancing.

Current In-Store Policies:

  • Plexiglass at registers separating the cashiers from the customers

  • One-way aisles with signage on the floor to designate direction

  • Masks required at entrance for customers – Employees required to wear masks

  • Limit number of shoppers in store at one time – one in when one out

  • Spaced out checkout lines with visual markers on the floor/ground

  • Grocery carts cleaned and sanitized between all customers

  • Some have removed hand baskets and small carts and require large carts as their signage states that two grocery carts is the appropriate physical distance to maintain 6ft

  • Promote one family member shopping 

  • Dedicated hours for the elderly, immunocompromised and other vulnerable customers

Alternatives to In-Store Shopping Experiences:

  • Order online and pickup at store

  • Order online and have a drone drop it off at your home (China)

  • Fresh produce vending machines in residential buildings (China)

  • China grocery e-commerce site: partnered with counselors & psychiatrists to offer services to their customers through their e-commerce grocery site

During this time there is the opportunity to use technology to create new experiences in obtaining food and essential items. There have been uptakes in online ordering, produce and meal kit subscription services and grocery delivery services. An e-commerce grocery site in China is using it's platform to offer counseling services in addition to selling groceries.

There are also opportunities for redesigning the grocery/market experience and physical space. Shift, a Dutch Architecture studio, created a proposal based around the idea that existing food markets could be split up and dispersed throughout local neighborhoods. They call them "micro markets that operate on a hyper-local scale". Each micro market consists of just three stalls, organized around a 16-square grid. There is one entrance but two exits, and each stall has two counters, one for ordering and one for collection. Only 6 persons enter at a time, one person in one square. The stalls sell packages rather than individual products, in order to reduce the time each customer spends.


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