We are all ready for a return to robust in-person shopping – but the most recent news about the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is making it doubtful that we’ve beaten the pandemic yet. According the George Anderson on RetailWire, “while the Delta variant hasn’t resulted in any mass shifts in shopping behavior at this point, consumers could potentially retreat to their homes to reduce potential exposure.”  As shopkeepers, we need to do what we can to prevent that from happening – while working to keep our staff and customers safe.

This highly contagious fourth wave of infection is causing a surge in COVID cases across the country, but especially in states with low vaccinations rates.  It is clear that there are two ways we can help bring the pandemic to an end: encouraging vaccination and requiring masks.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its mask guidelines on July 27, recommending that everyone, whether vaccinated or not, wear a mask indoors in places where the virus is spreading widely.

One of the things that made COVID so challenging for retailers was the limitation of customer counts in order to enforce social distancing, and that is not being recommended at this time. The sight of our customers waiting in line in the winter cold last Christmas made me very sad. But seeing shoppers wearing masks to protect the most vulnerable among us, including children too young to be vaccinated, fills me with gratitude.    

We’ve left our cash register plexiglass shields in place, and our staff continues to be masked.  Customers are encouraged to wear masks, and we have stacks of free ones available at the entrance. We are sorry to have to keep up this masking policy for more months, however even with these precautions we should be able to have a much better season than last year.  Since the CDC has called for students, staff and teachers in schools to wear masks, we’re planning on turning lemons into lemonade by offering a cotton kids mask (purchased in bulk for 50¢ each) free with every toy or puzzle purchase.  Because if COVID has taught us nothing else, it is that we need to be flexible in order to stay safe and be successful.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder