After closing their doors two months ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some familiar national retail chains have joined local stores in reopening their brick-and-mortar locations to Colorado Springs-area shoppers.
Kohl’s, Nordstrom Rack and Burlington began welcoming back customers this week, following the lead nearly two weeks ago of Macy’s and Dillard’s, among others.
A stay-at-home order issued March 25 by Gov. Jared Polis as a way to halt the spread of the coronavirus forced nonessential retailers in Colorado — such as clothing, soft goods and department stores — to temporarily close to all but online shopping.
After that order was relaxed, retailers were permitted to begin curbside service April 27 and then allowed to reopen their physical spaces May 1.
As they’ve found with local retailers, customers who now shop their favorite national brands can expect to find an array of protective measures in place when they walk in the door.
Retailers have installed many of their safeguards to comply with state and local rules and directives, but they also want to make shoppers feel at ease, said Mark Useman, a retail specialist and executive managing director at Colorado Springs Commercial, a local brokerage.
“The customers are going to demand it, and it’s going to make them feel more secure,” Useman said. “There’s a fair amount of pent-up demand for people to get out and want to do some shopping. That’s going to make it an even better environment for them. The kind of safeguards and precautions they’re (retailers) taking will make it a better experience. If it becomes a bad experience, then they won’t go back.”
Kohl’s, with three Colorado Springs stores and one in Monument, has closed fitting rooms, for example. And stores with two entrances have shuttered one so that customers must come and go through a single entry.
Inside, employees will sanitize shopping carts between each customer use and limit store occupancy. Kohl’s also has removed merchandise displays from aisles to create wider spaces for customers and to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Like other stores, Kohl’s also has installed protective barriers at registers and will clean checkout lanes after each customer transaction.
Kohl’s won’t mandate that customers wear face masks but asks that they abide by local and state guidelines. In Colorado Springs and El Paso County, local residents aren’t required to wear face coverings.
At Nordstrom Rack, the outlet store for upscale retailer Nordstrom at 7645 N. Academy Blvd., some fitting rooms have been closed and those that are open will be cleaned after every customer use.
Merchandise that shoppers try on or return will be set aside for an unspecified amount of time — a “temporary holding period,” as Nordstrom Rack calls it — before it’s returned to the sales floor.
Store employees, meanwhile, will wear face masks and undergo health screenings. Customers won’t be required to have face coverings, though Nordstrom Rack will provide disposable masks and “highly recommends” that shoppers wear them while inside the store.
“More than anything, we want our customers and employees to feel safe in our stores,” a Nordstrom Rack spokeswoman said via email.
Creating that safe environment is key for retailers, Useman said.
“That’s going to make them come back,” he said of shoppers.
“They’re going to tell their friends. They’re going to say, ‘Hey, I went to Nordstrom Rack and here’s what happened. I felt very safe. And by the way, they had a great deal on stuff. You ought to go there.’ That’s the kind of thing you want them to do, right?”
Not all national retailers have reopened in Colorado Springs.
J.C. Penney’s two local stores, at The Citadel mall and the First & Main Town Center, remain closed. The Dallas-based retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week; it still plans to reopen some of its stores but will close others as part of its bankruptcy. The fate of the Springs locations is unknown.
Colorado Springs’ two indoor shopping malls, The Citadel and Chapel Hills, haven’t yet received the green light from state officials to reopen, although stores with exterior entrances are allowed to welcome customers.