BY JOHN E. USALIS
Boscov’s will reopen five Pennsylvania stores on Saturday, including its Fairlane Village mall site, with COVID-19 safety protocols in place and greeters stationed at entrances to offer hand sanitizer and masks.
“It’s nice to get open. I am very pleased,” Chairman/CEO Jim Boscov said in a phone interview Wednesday, crediting the company’s “healthy balance sheet” and minimal debt for its survival during the pandemic. Boscov’s in Lebanon, Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre and Colonial Park near Harrisburg are the other Pennsylvania locations opening. Eight company stores in other states will open, too, on Saturday.
The stores, along with corporate offices in Reading, have been closed since March 18.
The openings in Schuylkill, Lebanon and Luzerne will come one day after those counties move into the yellow stage of the state’s phased reopening plan.
“We believe that a number of Pennsylvania stores will be opening on June 5, but we’re waiting for official word,” he said. “It’s too early to say, but as soon as we can, we will. We have crews working in anticipation so that we’re ready.”
No one could have prepared for the pandemic, he said.
“In any corporation that thinks about disaster recovery and that type of planning, they plan for a hurricane or a distribution center to be wiped out, but who in the world would plan for this, though we will from now on,” Boscov said. (Even when it came time to close stores, he figured it would be for two or three weeks.
“Who would have thought it would be two months and more?” he said. “Now I know a lot better, and I’ve very grateful for the loyalty of our coworkers and the loyalty of customers.”
Boscov’s said it took some time after the pandemic hit to get a few stores staffed to service e-commerce sales, and still the company was limited in what it could do online.
New hours Monday through Saturday for the entire 48-store chain are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays from 11 a.m. to noon are dedicated for vulnerable customers, with others asked to wait until later.
Boscov said the stores are being prepared for reopening with safety procedures and new shopping policies, including distinct entrance and exit patterns. Customers want to know that “we’ve taken the precautions to keep them safe and our coworkers safe,” Boscov said.
Boscov’s will separate sales registers, install Plexiglas shields and deep clean. Hand sanitizers will be placed throughout stores and shopping carts and other areas will be wiped down with disinfectants on a continuing basis, Boscov said.
“We’ve introduced all kinds of protocols. We require masks and follow the state guidelines there,” he said.
Masks will be available for a $1 donation, with the money going to a first responders COVID-19 relief fund.
‘Absolutely no revenue’
Boscov said the company was able to extend medical coverage for furloughed employees through June.
“In today’s world, how do you get by without health insurance?” he said. “We have very loyal coworkers and we’re grateful for what they do.”
The financial health of the company has helped during the shutdown.
“Can you imagine trying to run a business with absolutely no revenue coming in?” he said. “We were very fortunate. We are a conservative company with a healthy balance sheet with almost no debt, and that has allowed us to get through this period.”
As for company promotions, such as “Did You Boscov Today?,” which was interrupted with the shutdown, Boscov said, “Right now the concern is that we get open safely, but we’re just starting to look at that (promotional) calendar to see how we’re going to handle ‘Did You Boscov Today?’ I hope we can do that in its original format or in a revised one.”
A number of stores in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have already reopened, with “wonderful compliance, which is very, very important to me,” Boscov said. “We’re really talking about the health of our coworkers and customers. We want to keep everybody healthy.”
The following safety and shopping policies have been established for all Boscov’s stores as they reopen:
- All stores are undergoing a “deep cleaning” in all areas prior to reopening.
- An “intensified cleaning program” has been established that focuses on areas such as bathrooms, handrails, door handles, shopping carts and other frequently touched surfaces.
- Individual cash register stations will be available to enhance social distancing and Plexiglas screens have been installed at each register.
- Hygiene protocols have been established for the cosmetics department.
- All dressing rooms are temporarily closed.
- All customers and co-workers must wear a face covering within the store. Individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition may enter without providing medical documentation.
- Customers and co-workers must follow social distancing guidelines as outlined by the CDC and remain at least 6 feet away from other individuals.
- Customers will be asked to follow entrance and exit patterns. Each store will have at least one designated entrance and all other doors will be used as exit only.
- Store traffic will be monitored to stay “well below” the state’s coronavirus capacity guidelines.
- All returns must be taken to the courtesy desk.
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