Many comic shops have been temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 crisis. As some areas begin easing restrictions, it’s important to have a plan in place for when your store reopens, when it has been deemed safe to do so. Shop owners have the opportunity during lockdown to look ahead and make sure their stores are safe place for their customers and employees upon reopen.
We spoke with comic shop owners Michael Campbell of Captain’s Comics and Toys in Charleston, SC, and John Dudas of Carol and John’s Comic Shop in Cleveland, OH about plans for their shops. Here are some of their recommendations to help make sure your shop is a safe place to visit when you open your doors.
Develop Your Plan
Even if you’re unsure of when your shop will be open to the public in some capacity, it’s important to have a plan in place. Keep up-to-date on local and state guidelines for business operations and make sure your store abides by them. When crafting your plan, make sure to keep the health and safety of your employees as your top priority. Do not reopen until you feel that you can do so safely.
Preparing the Inside of Your Store
Taking the time to outfit your shop with health and safety measures ahead of your reopen can help ensure it will run smoothly. Use this downtime to your advantage and start preparing.
Deep Clean Your Store
Do a thorough deep clean of your shop. Dust, disinfect, vacuum, and make sure to cover all of the hard to reach spots that you might miss in day-to-day cleaning. While you’re cleaning, consider reorganizing your store to maximize the space customers have so that they are able to properly social distance. This might mean widening aisles or moving fixtures.
John Dudas from Carol and John’s Comics said “The Governor’s office has recommended a deep cleaning once a week and that’s what we’re going to do. We will be closed on Mondays for the foreseeable future to do that deep clean.”
Install a Sneeze Guard
Install a sneeze guard at your check-out area to add some distance between your employees and customers.
Michael from Captain’s Comics said “We used the clear plastic of a 24″ by 36″ poster frame from the crafts store and have it placed between customers at the register and the staff. Make sure to leave a 6″ gap underneath it for product and payment to move back and forth.”
Use Distance Markers
Public health officials are encouraging people to keep a safe social distance of 6 feet apart when in public spaces. Place markers around your shop to help customers gauge their distance from one another.
Take a look at the markers John installed at Carol and John’s!
Hand Sanitizing Station
Have a hand sanitizing station at the front of your store for customers’ and employees’ use. Mike notes that mandatory hand sanitizing will help keep the germ count down in the store (and on the product).
If you’re having trouble finding hand sanitizer, check with your local distillery. John’s using hand sanitizer made locally at the Western Reserve Distillers in Lakewood.
Policies Upon Open
Safe Occupancy Policies
Check with your state and local guidelines and determine what is a safe maximum occupancy to set for your store. You can assign an employee to keep track of how many people are in the store at one time and keep a short line outside when you are at capacity.
You can also consider setting designated shopping times in your store for at-risk customers. Carol and John’s is setting aside 11 am to noon on Thursdays for their at-risk customers only.
Having employees wear masks while in the store not only helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, but also helps put customers at ease. Decide whether you will be mandating their use by customers. If you do, have masks on hand that you can offer.
Mike from Captain’s has some great advice on offering masks in your shop:
“People are going to be wearing cloth masks, and there are going to be many crafty fans at home right now. Team up with those fans and have “geek” face masks available at your store! We are working with friends who have volunteered their time and have made us masks for about fifty cents in supplies each. We’re selling them for $5 minimum donation and giving all the money to local restaurant’s tip jars. It’s bringing in new people, it’s bringing in goodwill as we reopen, it helps the local community, and it helps keep people a little more safe. We’ve sold an average of 50 a day for 12 days now, so they have been a great way to help either the community or the store.”
John is strongly recommending his customers at Carol and John’s wear a mask and will have disposable masks available for those who need one. At risk members of our community can ask for a Marvel mask made by a local seamstress free of charge.
Policy on Trade-Ins
Many shops buy and trade comics. Knowing that the virus can last for a significant amount of time on surfaces means you should consider your current trade-in policies. If you plan on continuing to purchase comics, come up with a system that allows for them to be handled safely. For example, you can store a purchased collection for a set number of days before they are priced and available on the sales floor.
Curbside Pick-Up and Mail Order Services
Continue to offer curbside pick-up and other delivery options for customers who are not comfortable or able to come into the store. Include a contactless payment option. Both Captain’s Comics and Carol and John’s will continue to offer curbside pick-up to their customers until further notice.
Sharing Your Plan
Walk Through Your Plan With Employees
It’s important to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Walk through your plan and make sure to address any concerns your employees might have.
Mike suggests talking to your team about what safety equipment, procedures, hours of availability, and store adjustments will help them feel comfortable interacting with the public.
Keep Your Customers Up-to-Date
Keep your customers informed about what you’re doing to ensure their safety. Post your updated policies on your door, so customers know what to expect before walking in. Share your plan on your social media channels and in your store newsletter as well to send the message that your customers’ safety is your priority. Remind customers that you’re still an important part of their community.
Having a plan in place is an important step to take before reopening your business. Above all, our number one recommendation is to keep the safety of your employees and customers at the forefront of any plan. CBLDF encourages shop owners to follow state and local guidelines in deciding when it is safe to open to the public and in what capacity.
Thank you to Michael Campbell of Captain’s Comics and Toys in Charleston, SC, and John Dudas of Carol and John’s Comics in Cleveland, OH for contributing to this article.
Support Local Comic Shops!
Captain’s Comics and Toys
Carol and John’s Comic Book Shop
CBLDF is providing resources for retailers throughout this crisis at http://cbldf.org/coronavirus