Shopping by appointment: What to expect
From today, Netherlands residents can physically shop in non-essential stores, but only by appointment. Stores are only allowed to let in two customers per floor in time slots of at least 10 minutes. Customers must make a booking at least four hours in advance.
This relaxation of the coronavirus lockdown is great for small stores that usually don't have many customers in them at once. But for large retailers that usually have hundreds of shoppers at a time, opening under these restrictions makes little sense. Some like Action, fashion store WE, and Gamma are going to open nevertheless.
Shoppers at action need to book a time slot on their website, a spokesperson explained to RTL Nieuws. Shoppers will have the store largely to themselves, as only one other shopper will be allowed inside. When the time slot starts, music will start playing in the store, and every few minutes there will be an announcement for how much time you have left.
Action opted for four time slots of 10 minutes in an hour. The extra 20 minutes leeway is to make sure everyone can calmly pay and leave the store in time. That means eight customers per hour.
Fashion chain WE is taking a different approach, a spokesperson said to the broadcaster. Customers have to book a slot by calling their local branch. "We have an intake interview by telephone in advance, where we discuss with the customers what they are looking for. If desired, items and sets can be hung ready in advance." During the call, it's estimated how much time will be needed for the shopping appointment.
Gamma decided to open because "we want to see our customers again, but it is a challenge," a spokesperson said to RTL. "You have to imagine: we have been closed for a quarter, our stores have become distribution points. In the morning employees go into the store and pack all kinds of orders. Sometimes its a few packs of screws, but sometimes also ten bags of potting soil and a patio heater. Those orders are then everywhere in the store. Now we also have a normal store again while the ordering continues."
The hardware store is using time slots of 15 minutes, with each shopper being assigned a sales employee to help them find what they need in a timely manner.
Other large retailers like IKEA, Hornbach and H&M announced that they're not going to bother opening for a maximum of 12 customers per hour.
"An average Hornbarch store has an area of 15,000 square meters. We are allowed to have two customers in there at the same time. Under current guidelines, it is not realistic for us to open. We regret that, but we can better focus on reservations and pickup and the web shop, in order to serve as many people as possible," a Hornbarch spokesperson explained to the broadcaster.