Socially Distant Shopping

The Experience of Retail Since the Reopening

As with everything else that has reopened (restaurants, gyms, beaches), there are certain restrictions when it comes to shopping. Face masks must be worn in the store, capacity is limited to 50 percent, and some retailers even require appointments to be made. A month after Phase 1 Reopening began, I spent an afternoon in the Gables to see what a shopping spree was like in this new normal.

I started at My Best Friend’s Closet, which was not the best way to begin my Miracle Mile journey. It was closed. Like lights-out-door-locked- completely-empty closed. I can only hope it’s simply under construction and not permanently shuttered because this is one of my favorite Gables boutiques. Spirits dampened, I headed west to some of the other stores. It was good to see that Essence was busy, but it’s small, so between the shoppers and employees, it felt crowded. On the other hand, Curves N Waves was rather spacious and devoid of other customers, so
I felt more comfortable there. Plenty of other stores were open as well, like Violeta’s, Blue Mercury, and various bridal and menswear shops. But I was looking for women’s clothing, so I headed to the Shops at Merrick Park.

The scene there was a lot livelier. With large outdoor seating areas in the courtyard, diners were dining. A masked employee at the men’s store Mizzen + Main was wiping down the door handles with disinfectant. Across the courtyard, Earthy Chic was also taking necessary precautions.

Upon entering, there was a bottle of hand sanitizer for patrons, who then followed blue arrows on the floor like the aisles of a supermarket. Owner Priscilla Reyes was behind the register with an employee; both were wearing face masks. In addition to the hand sanitizer and floor markers, Reyes explained, “We also steam all the clothing after someone tries it on so that it is clean for the next person.”

socially distant shopping
The author at Earthy Chic in Shops at Merrick Park. To keep customers apart, blue arrows on the floor act as guides

Retailers everywhere have updated their inventory to include face masks, like Johnny Was, the boho chic and vintage clothing store on the west end of the shops. “The thing that we’re selling the most is obviously the masks,” said salesperson Katherine Brown. “We sold out of the silk ones already and we only have cotton and fabric ones left. Everyone’s realizing that this is going to be the new normal.”

Keeping it clean and safe at Sephora with hand sanitizer and temperature testing for patrons

One store that grabbed my attention was Sephora on the second floor of the Shops. They had a stand outside with a large bottle of hand sanitizer for shoppers. An employee behind took the temperature of anyone who entered and kept track of the number of people in the store. Once inside, the aisles were also structured like Publix, with floor stickers guiding
you through the store. At the register, the cashier – with a protective screen for a socially distant checkout – cleaned the credit card machine between each purchase.

Is shopping the same as it was pre-COVID? Of course not. And it probably won’t be for a while. But getting out of the house and visiting your favorite boutiques is a breath of face mask-filtered fresh air.

Socially distant shopping
Katherine Brown, salesperson at Johnny Was