Time to Clean Up!

Dance retailers know that cleanliness is a key tactic in their visual merchandising strategy, but with the disquieting spread of coronavirus, it’s also an essential ingredient to keep your staff and customers healthy.

Cleaning with spray detergent, rubber gloves and dish cloth on work surface for hygiene
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As a retailer, you know the importance of a clean shopping environment. “Cleaning is part of your message of freshness and newness in your store,” says Bob Phibbs, CEO of consulting firm The Retail Doctor. “People shop where it’s clean, well-lit and well-merchandised. If they’re not wowed with your store’s appearance, they’ll pull out the phone and shop somewhere else.” This is even more true now, with growing concern over the spread of coronavirus. Cleanliness is going to be uppermost on customers’ minds—and you’ll not only want to make a good first impression, but to keep everyone as healthy as possible, too. 

Providing Confidence and Comfort

As with the dancewear you sell and the expert advice you offer, your store’s appearance needs to deliver an exceptional experience. This means instilling in your employees an understanding that a clean store is a vital sales tool, providing confidence and comfort to both salesperson and customer. Take a tour of your store to assess it: As with any place you become accustomed to, you may no longer notice the little things that visitors pick up on instantly. Read on for best practices and the year-round cleaning routines of storeowners we spoke to.

What to Clean, When

The size of your store and its daily foot traffic will dictate how often and how thoroughly you clean. All zones must be addressed throughout the day, particularly the door and entrance, the cash wrap, dressing rooms and bathrooms.

Fitting Rooms: Go to the dressing rooms several times a day and remove any pins or clothing. Fitting rooms may be hidden away, but a pleasant, upbeat experience here helps close the sale. If you provide tights or scrunchies for try-ons, make sure they’re always fresh, are hung up properly and don’t lie on the floor inside out.

Bathrooms: Make sure there are no paper towels on the floor, soap and towel dispensers are stocked and surfaces are clean. In the wake of serious viruses, from seasonal flu to coronavirus, it is essential to post instructions for careful, thorough handwashing (much like you would in a restaurant) and instruct staff to do so frequently. (This training video is even fun. Hint: dancers involved.)

Cash wrap and entrance: Keep an eye on floor mats near the cash wrap and by the entrance. Tidying and straightening also conveys the message, “We pay attention to details.” Employees should know to constantly monitor merchandise on the sales floor, making sure displays and racks are completely stocked and tidy, with no hangers askew and nothing falling off them.

Retailers Double Down

In recent weeks, retailers have been stepping up their standard cleaning routines to address concerns about coronavirus, protect their staff and reassure their customers. Business Insider reports, for instance, that Apple Stores have increased the presence of cleaning staff, installed hand-sanitizing stations and instructed employees to wipe down demo products and surfaces more often.

It’s easy enough to place hand-sanitizer dispensers at the checkout counter and give your staff a checklist of extra wipe-downs to do at regular intervals throughout the day—door handles, the cash wrap, monitors, for instance. Don’t be shy about communicating to customers your cleaning protocol within the store while this coronavirus remains present in the U.S. Your candor will reassure visitors that you have their health and welfare top of mind. (For regularly updated information and best practices, bookmark the National Retail Federation’s “Coronavirus Resources for Retailers” page. And check out the CDC’s guidance for businesses.) 

For routine cleaning, a to-do list posted in a staff area is helpful. “We have daily and weekly cleaning lists,” says Jon DeMott, whose DanceWear Corner in Orlando, FL, spans 6,000 square feet. “With a large space, you can’t do it all in one day, so it’s ongoing, and employees work as teams.” Sweeping, vacuuming and dusting typically happen before or after hours, out of the customers’ way. 

As for deeper cleanings, create a schedule for employees or a cleaning crew. Once a year, Phibbs advises, clean to the point of moving everything out. As Cara Milo, owner of Beam & Barre in Greenwich, CT, found when she actually moved her store, “It’s a good way to see if things need rearranging or purging.” 

Training Your Staff

Establish standards with your employees on day one, says Phibbs, by making clear their role in the store’s maintenance. “Show them what your definition of clean is,” he says. “On an employee’s first day of work, have them clean the bathroom, and demonstrate exactly how it’s done.” If everyone plays a part in cleaning, your store will always be in great shape. Milo’s employees check every day for things that need to be cleaned. 

Make a list and give each employee an area of responsibility, or rotate roles. “We set expectations during hiring, so it becomes part of the culture and values,” says DeMott, who, with business partner Sandra Quigley, moved from restaurant operation to dance retail. Employees are “team members” and start with a training program of two weeks, guided and mentored by seasoned staff in all the procedures. Each task is checked off as it is learned. “The cleanliness is part of your presentation and sales tools,” he says. “We get compliments all the time on our store; customers think we have a corporate HQ!”

Of course, all of this doesn’t mean sales staff become your sole cleaning crew; storeowners hire professionals, especially for big jobs that need special equipment, like carpet cleaning. But staff can feel pride in their role in the store’s appearance and understand how it will help them succeed, too. “While it’s easy to keep the place the same or just looking clean,” says Milo, “customers notice when something is different or freshened up and usually get more excited about merchandise that way.”

Repairs and Touch-ups

Beyond cleaning, have a plan in place for repairs and touch-ups, and designate someone responsible for following up. Some aspects will be routine, like painting or refreshing worn fixtures. Others must be actively addressed as needed, like replacing lightbulbs and patching up scuff marks, as well as clearing out unsold stock to make way for fresh shipments. To reduce clutter, clean out obsolete merchandise, too. “Go through the stockroom twice a year, take everything out and make a decision—if it didn’t sell on promo, it should be donated,” says Phibbs. “If it goes back to the vendor, then put dates on boxes for when they should be picked up.”

A Cleaning Checklist

Entrance: sidewalk, freestanding displays or racks, signage, glass doors, door handles

Windows: weekly top-to-bottom cleaning

Lighting: no old or flickering bulbs

Merchandise: straighten, replace or refill, declutter

Cash desk: declutter, sanitize surfaces and clean away fingerprints and rings from drinks with disinfectant cleaner, rearrange and clean out drawers

Dressing rooms: remove leftover merchandise, pins and tags, sanitize surfaces

Bathroom: soap and towels, mirror, trash, toilet; a professional cleaning service will help clean every aspect of a bathroom

Stockroom: straighten up and monitor to stop clutter accumulating

Last updated March 12, 2020

Charlotte Barnard is a writer living in New York City who regularly covers design and retail strategy.