When Katie White saw a few other businesses join Count On Me NC, “I wondered if that was something we could do.”
Boone’s Furniture & Gifts in Burlington, N.C., could do it. In fact, it involved “a lot of what we were already doing” to reassure the public it’s safe to come into the store, White said.
Count On Me NC was created by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services with business groups to set standards for reopening restaurants, hotels and retail stores after mandatory coronavirus-related closures.
“It started originally for the restaurants,” said White. “I kept checking back to see if other businesses could do it.”
White’s mother, Julie Isley, owns Home Furnishings Association member Boone’s Furniture & Gifts. White does some purchasing and all the marketing. She knew a great idea when she saw it.
Not everyone is ready yet to walk into a business. White described one customer who asked store employees to bring a coffee table and a clock to a window so she could see them from outside. They did – and made the sale!
“Whatever works for the customer,” White said.
Win the customer’s confidence
But the idea is to gain customers’ confidence that a business is doing everything it should to maintain a safe environment. White completed an online course and implemented the recommended practices. Those include proper cleaning methods, especially at kiosks and high-traffic areas, requiring employees to wear face masks and wash their hands frequently, placing hand sanitizer at convenient locations for customers. The store is still open limited hours and offers appointments to customers who believe they’re in high-risk categories.
Boone’s was one of the first two furniture stores in the state to attain the designation. It may be a missed opportunity for the rest.
For White, who represents the fourth generation of a 105-year-old family business, it’s part of building trust between a retailer and its customers. That’s critical, whether it’s trust about fair dealings or having a safe, clean store.
“The more you can do, the better,” White said. “It’s one more thing you can add to the tool kit.”
‘We feel we’re on the right track’
Customers are responding. Although traffic has been slow on weekdays since the business reopened, White said, “people who are coming in are coming in with a purpose.” And on Saturdays, “we’re just swamped from the beginning of the day to the end. We don’t have enough employees on Saturdays.”
Since its founding by Turner Boone during the First World War, the business has survived a flu pandemic, the Depression, the Second World War, social changes, other economic downturns and now this.
“We feel we’re on the right track,” White said.
Count On Me NC says so, too.