What’s Happening At Indie Beauty Retailers? We Touch Base With Them About Reopening Plans.

More than half of states in the United States began to reopen this week. For stores, reopening procedures can take many different forms. To find out more about them, in this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions relevant to indie beauty, we ask 16 retailers: What does your reopening look like?

Jessica Richards Owner and Founder, Shen Beauty

Shen's reopening process is going to be a long road. I am currently in the process of construction of my new store, which is three times the size of my current space and is undergoing a much needed facelift. However, due to COVID, both construction on my new space and my current space is shut down. The plans for reopening will be based on what we legally will be required to do as well as what we deem safe to protect both staff and customers, from figuring out how we have makeup and skincare testers as well as how we provide services. Most definitely, though, we will be wearing masks, gloves and face shields when we open and until a vaccine is ready.  

Although beauty can seem vapid, it is not. I have seen women come in to talk openly about the divorce they are going through, have seen them cry when they have their makeup done because they feel more beautiful than they ever have, and it is now that I want more than ever to see those incredibly beautiful, yet intimate moments that we have been so lucky to be a part of for 10 years.

Dixie Lincoln-Nichols Founder, Inside Outer Beauty Market

One thing we know is that we don’t know what’s going to happen, and how and when this is all going to end. That said, we have a plan in place, which we are ready to implement. We feel confident about reopening when the time is right. We can’t say whether or not we’ll remain confident about the reopening. Only reopening and time will tell. We will continue to listen to the guidelines and make a reopening decision that’s best for us, our customers and community. Currently, we’re going with the flow, and we’re ready to pause, pivot and persevere as needed.

At the top of mind is minimizing risk of infection and maintaining the safety of our customers, community and workers. We will follow the CDC’s reopening guidance for cleaning and disinfecting businesses. That will look like thorough and safe cleansing and disinfecting of doors and surfaces several times per day, and maintaining social distancing by limiting the amount of people in the store at a time. Our space is small, so that won’t be difficult to implement and control. We will also be requiring masks for anyone who enters the store, and implementing a "don’t touch" product policy unless customers and workers use hand sanitizers or gloves, which we will provide.

We’ll also be offering curbside pickup, so customers can either order online and pick up or call the store to order and, then, pick up.

JENNIFER FREITAS Founder, The Truth Beauty Company

I think we are still a few weeks away from reopening. I also believe that, when we reopen, there will not be a mad rush of people. I think the practice of social distancing will remain. I actually imagine our e-commerce to still be pulling us through in terms of capturing sales. 

Within the stores, testers will no longer be made available for people to help themselves to. I will be calling on suppliers to see if they can bump up their sampling. We will also look to assist with decanting products that we can. Staff will wear masks when assisting with products and when processing transactions. Everything will be wiped and disinfected after each client. As small boutiques, it would be uncommon to have groups, so I don't really anticipate crowding to be an issue. It will be a new way of interacting for sure!

Tracy Trellis Owner, Trellis Beauty

Currently, North Carolina is in phase one of a multiple phase process to reopen the state. What this means for Trellis Beauty is technically we could reopen our retail side while the spa remains closed until the state officially makes the call on salons and spas. However, with the safety of our employees and guests in mind, I have decided to remain closed at this time while continuing limited hours for our grab-and-go service, online virtual consultations and, of course, our online shop.  

Grab and go is our version of curbside assistance. [Customers] pay ahead and pick up in-store. While most beauty retailers are just now launching this service, Trellis has been offering the service since mid-March when we decided to close the shop due to COVID-19. Right now, we wait for the call on spa approval from the state to reopen our Beauty Treatment Bar, which could be as soon as May 23, but, at this time, we do not plan to open as soon as that.  

Of course, our processes will change once we open full time again with our employees as well as our guests. Face masks will be mandatory, [and there will be] increased sanitation and social distancing. Testers will no longer be on display to try, just to name a few changes. We will work as a team to come up with the best practices to ensure safety for everyone. It will be a new normal to navigate and will be constantly evolving, very much what being in business is all about.

Jennifer Tinsley Founder, Field Botanicals

Although Georgia, where Field is located, was one of the first states to ease COVID-19 restrictions, I’m not planning on reopening until June at the earliest, if then. We're currently taking online orders and providing shipping or curbside pickup and, even though it’s been enough to get us through the last couple of months, sales are not at normal levels. Customer and team safety are our highest priority, and transparency and communication are also high priorities. 

When we do reopen, I plan on requiring face masks, and will provide disposable masks as well as hand sanitizer at the entrance. Our team will wear masks in addition to disposable gloves when handling products. Signage will be added reminding customers about social distancing. We’ll have touchless checkout and limit the number of customers in the store at one time. I’m considering being appointment-only initially so I can ease back into opening. Within our building, I’ve expanded our store area by about 30%, removed some furniture, and rearranged displays to provide ample space. 

I’m concerned about testers. Do I keep them for some items? Do I keep them behind the counter? Do I have them at all? All the old testers have been disposed and, with operating funds so tight, it would be burdensome to replace them. Customers love going around the store smelling all the products and will open products even without testers. How will we regulate that? Right now, there seem to be more questions than answers, which is why this conversation is so important.

JENNIE FRESA Founder and Owner, Copal Clean Beauty

I've decided to wait one additional week to take extra precautions and give staff members, who are working out summertime child care, the opportunity to plan ahead. During this phase, we will open on May 26 and have limited hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 12 to 4 pm. However, we are planning many new, exciting ways for our guests to stay in touch and receive virtual care from us.  

There is no better time to double down on your social media and offer virtual services. Our online store is open 24/7. If you don’t currently have an online store, you may want to consider making this a priority. We need to support each other in the rebuilding process, which is why I wanted to share my tips for how I’m preparing to reopen post lockdown.

Angela Jia Kim CEO and Founder, Savor Beauty

We have created a flexible phase A, B and C timeline to ensure we are creating a safe environment for everyone. Phase A will be curbside pickup for retail products as well as continuing our online business. In phase B, we will reintroduce our facials with strict PPE guidelines for team and guest safety. We will also ensure that only two people are interacting at a time. And, finally, in phase C, we will determine how to conduct business moving forward using the best practices. 

In general, we have moved all of our events online to the Self-Love Spa, which is a win-win for us and our consumer base. The quarantine has given us the opportunity to discover a new and scaled way to conduct business. We are optimistic to have found methods to not only ensure well-being for all, but also to create a national platform for our events and workshops through our newly-launched Virtual Self-Love Spa.

Emilie Hoyt Founder, Lather

As states open and the world makes strides to move forward, Lather will continue to show up for our community in the best way we know: with care, caution and compassion. We will continue to comply with guidelines made by health specialists and government officials, and open our stores and office in phases.

We have five store locations in three different states, and each state has a different set of guidelines. So, we've put an internal task force together to monitor these changes and lay out procedures and guidelines our store managers and associates will need to follow when we are able to open to maintain their safety and comfort, and the safety and comfort of our customers. 

At this point, we don't have immediate plans to reopen the office. While we'd all like to be physically together again, we've figured out how to work successfully from home. We will reopen once we feel it's safe to do so.

Estela Cockrell Founder, Switch2Pure

Relaunching a brick-and-mortar during this time is quite a rodeo! We are doing a “re-grand opening,” if you will, for our flagship Texas location. We love a challenge, so we are taking our Wellery opening in Houston and the current climate into consideration and reimagining everything. We have always had a strong online presence, but we are fortifying those virtual touch points from FaceTime skin consults to wellness questionnaires and nutritional counseling meetings over Zoom to making sure our Instagram and social engagement with our purists is seamless. 

We are always just a text, call, DM or email away. We want our purists to feel the comfort in knowing we are here by their side. We are also reworking our events lineup, so that our purists still have a sense of community, socially-distant, of course. We also know there is no better time than now to put health and wellness at the forefront. We believe that inspires our purists and gives them hope for the future, us too.  

We will continue to provide organic and nontoxic facial and body services with our newly implemented COVID pure precautions protocol. We will also continue to ship our nontoxic performance skincare line around the country. I am honored and proud that we are going above and beyond with our clients to make sure we are a source of comfort on their wellness journey. Some things change, but the sense of community and hope we provide our purists remains our #PUREPromise.

Rachel Williams Founder, Lorde Beauty

I do feel confident that, when the time comes to reopen my business, we will do it safely. It will be gradual when we are allowed to reopen. Retail shopping will be available and services will follow once we have all our proper PPE shipped and available to us, and staff is trained fully in updated and new protocols. Serving our clients, ensuring they have an impeccable experience has always been number one, and I am confident each person will feel the exact same outstanding experience and attention to detail that they have loved since day one at Lorde.

Kimberly Smith Founder, Marjani

Getting approval from the local government that our business can reopen does not signal that the concern around COVID is over, so we will take a very conservative approach when it comes to reopening our store. We plan to incorporate a tiered approach, so reopen day one will not look like business as usual prior to COVID. 

What was once a communal, tactile-based business model will have to incorporate a strict social distancing philosophy. For example, in-store events will not be included in our first phase. We want to be mindful of the health and safety of both our staff and our customers. We will take guidance from the local government, CDC, and health and industry professionals we consult with.

We feel confident in reopening our doors. Despite the initial restrictions we will impose, we are confident our customers will be patient as we all navigate our new normal and appreciate our putting safety before the bottom line.

Annie Jackson Co-Founder and COO, Credo Beauty

We have been working on our reopening process since the day we closed our stores. We have modeled a slow and very conservative reopening process in three phases: curbside as states allow, followed by limited capacity and, then, the last phase back to “normal.” However, we anticipate that looking very different. The safety of our team and our customers is our paramount focus right now, and we have all been working double time to ensure we are following CDC guidance on safety and hygiene, and taking it slowly.  

We opened our Chicago store in Bucktown last Thursday for curbside, and it went seamlessly. Our customers just text the store when they arrive, and our Credo staff member places their order on a hook outside with their name on it. We have two people in the store socially distanced, wearing masks, of course, as well as gloves. Each store gets professionally deep cleaned prior to reopening, followed by further and consistent sanitization by our team.  

Our Los Angeles store in West Hollywood and our Plano, Tex., locations are also curbside starting this week.  As far as phase two, we are prepared for a very different road ahead. The beauty shopping experience will be far from normal for a very, very long time.

Brenda Lubin General Manager, Cedra Pharmacy

Due to COVID-19, our pharmacy is an essential part of business that is still operating. Although we are open, our doors have been closed, and we only serve customers at the door. It’s been a challenge balancing between the pharmacy and the retail store.

Our main priority is to service our customers with their prescriptions and essential products. As time has passed, our circumstances in this pandemic haven't changed. But let’s face it, everyone has been home, and some self-care is definitely needed at this time. We want to encourage that. Therefore, we want to expand our e-commerce store with essential products and our exclusive in-store products. We don’t want to limit our customers. We want to be accessible for all their needs.  

Cedra Pharmacy strives to provide exceptional customer service to our customers, and we want to do the same through our e-commerce store. Our world is shifting to digital more than ever now, and we want to seize this opportunity by revamping our e-commerce store.

Romain Gaillard Founder, The Detox Market

Safety has always been our top priority. So, when we planned our reopening, we focused all our energy on safety for our clients and for our employees. During the first phase, we are reopening some of our stores for contactless curbside pickup only. Our guests will have the option of calling the stores directly to place their orders or buy online with an option to pick up in-store the same day. We are excited to reopen our stores in this capacity and give our guests another option to satisfy their clean beauty needs.

Sabeen Zia Founder and Owner, The Indie Shelf

I am excited to reopen and see all of our clients again, but I'm definitely nervous as this is new to all of us. I hope to continue business while keeping both our clients and team safe in this unusual situation. We're making several changes to not only keep our customers safe, but also our staff. We've been offering free local delivery or shipping while we're closed. We will continue to offer that as well as add curbside pickup. All products are and will be sanitized, and bags are sealed for the client. Store hours will be reduced for the time being, and only one team member will be working per shift. 

Before reopening, we will deep clean the entire store. This includes all our tables, shelves, sink, break room, register, doors and windows. We will also use rubbing alcohol to wipe down all of our current inventory and discard any testers. New and fresh testers will be available for display only and handled by our staff. Our staff will wear masks and also gloves at checkout. 

Sampling is important at our shop. Usually, we would make samples in jars for our clients, but we will put a hold on that and only make pre-packed samples available to our clients for their safety. On pre-packed samples is where I would really need brand support. We're a small team, but our shop is small, too. Once we reopen, we will limit the number of clients in store to two at a time in our 600-square- foot shop. This will allow our staff to keep a safe distance, but also assist in an effective way.

We will also change the return policy. We will no longer accept returns on opened products. We normally would give store credit, but, in light of COVID, we will have to modify the policy. Every product will have an Indie Shelf seal, which will determine if a product was open, allowing us to accept or reject a return.

Connie McGrath Store Owner, Veer & Wander

The biggest change during COVID is realizing that, as a brick and mortar, how much we needed to update and change our e-commerce site and make it more like our in store vibe. We are working hard to get the new site up and then really push online sales going forward. We have been so busy with building the brick and mortar experience that we have had no time to dial in the online store. The positive side is we had time during COVID to redirect our energy to build a better e-commerce site.

As far as reopening up to the public, I assume it will be all about making sure customers feel safe, first and foremost.  We plan to replace all product testers and add sanitation tools in our stores. Create a hand sanitizer station in front of the store and have every customer use it before fully entering the store. We will post online and in store of what protocols we are doing to keep everyone safe. Educating is everything in this new normal.

One of the biggest challenges will be controlling the samples and making sure customers can feel safe and confident to still try on before you buy in this climate.  We are communicating with brands and seeing what they are offering as a safer solution for shelf testers. I think lots of brands will think of redesigning packaging or offering more individual tester packets.

We will have to create a very strict protocol for handling products, educating the staff of our new policy of how we are keeping them and everyone safe and really monitoring it at all times. It’s definitely a transition and many unknowns until we get on the other side of this and we will be discovering ways to adapt once we open.

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to editor@beautyindependent.com.