Shop, Work, Meet & Eat in the Time of Corona: 5 Best Practices in Social Distancing

Social Distancing turns profitability into an even bigger challenge for businesses. These five best practice examples show how social distancing can go hand in hand with creativity and innovation.

Virologists, physicians and other scientists around the globe are doing all they can to find ways to prevent and cure Covid-19. But the only common denominator among the scientific community is that Covid-19 is unlikely to disappear after a few years like the Spanish flu did. And even if – the probability that humankind will face other outbreaks that require social distancing and excellent hygiene to prevent infection and mass mortality remains high.

So we all have to find ways to shop, do sports, work, meet with others and share meals during a pandemic. Fortunately, one of the differentiators between humankind and other life forms is creativity, imagination and innovation. And that’s reflected in the following five best practice examples of social distancing for businesses across industries and geographies.

Access_control (Photo: Crosscan.

Access control to handle social distancing for retailers (Photo: Crosscan)

Shop in Time of Corona: Customer Access Management for Retailers

Following legislation and fulfilling safety requirements is clearly a challenge for retailers. And there is no one-size-fits-all solution that works for all retail formats. Many small retailers monitor occupancy levels by manually counting people in their stores and, where necessary, asking new arrivals to wait until another customer leaves the store.

Retailers managing larger spaces like supermarkets or discounters limit consumers by providing a limited number of shopping carts or shopping bags in order to keep control on maximum number of consumers allowed in their stores at the same time. Deichmann, Europe’s number one footwear retailer, uses re-programmed security tags that every consumer entering the store has to take and return upon leaving.

For retailers operating larger spaces or layouts that are difficult to monitor, high-tech solutions not only allow counting entries and exits, but also to raise an alarm and trigger actions that restrict access to additional consumers.

Crosscan provides technology to automate store operations and retail analytics. They offer a tool that uses 3D sensors to track occupancy levels and alarm staff when a set number of shoppers is reached. The tool works in real time and complies with local privacy legislation. The alarm triggers instant access restriction, either through a loudspeaker announcement or a traffic-light visualisation on a monitor near the store entrance.

Gunnebo entrance control additionally offers access gates that lock automatically once the maximum number of customers is reached and display a “please wait until customers exit” message.

Kleinfeldt GmbH works with thermal measurement system that not only counts people entering and leaving, but measures body temperature, recognises whether people are wearing a face mask and allows or restricts access through a traffic light system or gates.

social distancing access control

Access control based on thermal measurement (Photo: Kleinfeld GmbH)

Sports in the Time of Corona: How Social Distancing can Boost Customer Loyalty

Lululemon have recently acquired Mirror, a home fitness startup that streams personalised workouts and offers live group workout sessions while supporting the correct execution of exercises through a mirror-like display. It provides real-time feedback from certified fitness trainers, allows exercising and competing with friends, and individual play lists. It also monitors fitness data and tracks progress while offering personalised recommendations for achieving individual fitness goals.

For Lululemon, this acquisition is a natural extension of their existing customer journey and brand experience that includes an online studio where ambassadors provide yoga, running, fitness and meditation sessions via YouTube. The Mirror acquisition will help the company to build a loyal and high-frequency customer relationship, and to survive even a (hopefully unlikely) future in which physical retail stores will vanish to an absolute minimum.

Working out while social distancing (Photo:

Work in the Time of Corona: Home and Hotel Offices

For a very long time, home office was an exclusive and quite rare way of working for a selective group of professionals. With social distancing and quarantine measures in place, however, it became the new normal for many office workers.

For families with kids who need care, home schooling and entertainment, and for households where both partners work from home, a home office environment where they can focus on work and have undisturbed video conferences and calls became a new challenge. Fortunately, resourceful businesses came up with a solution to this problem: the home office at a hotel.

Individual hotels like the Achat Group began offering their rooms for use as a safe, quiet and comfortable office space during the daytime. In the meantime, platforms like Seattie or Home Office im Hotel have emerged to bring hotels, apartment owners and event spaces in touch with stressed-out remote workers who seek alternatives to their own space. Based on your needs you can select anything from a simple hotel room with a desk and a stable wifi connection to stylish meeting spaces with  high-end video-conferencing facilities, professional office equipment and catering.

Home office in a hotel room (Photo:

Meet in the Time of Corona: Virtual Fairs and Conferences

Due to lockdown measures and social distancing requirements, the majority of fairs, exhibitions and conferences had to be cancelled. And for many it remains unclear whether and when they will be able to resume.

The Fibre2Fashion Sourcing Show worked around this problem to proudly present the first virtual F2F sourcing show 2020. The show offers the same services you would expect from a physical exhibition (minus the physical contact) and has some extra offers on shelf too.

The virtual show allows exhibitors to:

  • Display logo or product banners on their virtual booth
  • Display corporate videos and product slide shows or videos, look books, product specifications, certifications etc.
  • Showcase the company history, philosophy, values, strengths, capacity, specialisation etc.
  • Exchange business cards with a representative available at your virtual booth
  • Live chat with visitors
  • Video meetings between visitors and exhibitors
  • Contact facilities to arrange meetings or send inquiries
  • Invite peers, business partners or friends to virtual meetings
  • Like and review facilities to assess exhibitors and booths

The advantages of this virtual event compared to a physical show include:

  • The duration: the virtual show is accessible 24/7 for 3 full months, from September 1st to November 30th 2020.
  • Exhibitors have full access to any information or expert within the company in case a visitor has a special requests or needs more detailed information. During a physical fair, only a few company representatives are available at the booth, and further meetings, calls or e-mails need to be arranged to answer more specialised requests.
  • Visitors can more effectively prepare for meetings or booth visits based on detailed information provided on the show’s website.
  • And last but not least, both exhibitors and visitors save travel cost and time.

Many customers as well as visitors noticed these advantages too, and companies like VF, The Gap, Ralph Lauren, Amazon, Coates, Asos, Walmart, Desigual, Decathlon, Columbia, H&M, Sainsbury’s, IKEA and many others have already signed up.

social distancing restaurant

A cosy dinner despite (or because of?) social distancing (Photo: Mediamatic Amsterdam)

Eat in the Time of Corona: How Creative Restaurants Enhance Dining With Social Distance

The most interesting social distancing concept in the restaurant scene, in my opinion, is how Mediamatic, a cultural hub in Amsterdam that organises events and projects around science, nature and the arts, implemented social distancing.

Mediamatic placed little greenhouses on their canal-side location, with enough space for two people to dine without any physical contact with staff. While staff wears individual protective equipment and face shields, dishes are served on long wooden boards, allowing the serving of food without staff entering the greenhouses. But the green houses are more than a safety feature – the idea also increased the attractiveness of the place and turns dining into an unforgettable experience.


About the Author:

Heike Blank has worked for big organisations such as VF Europe and s.Oliver but also for niche brands such as Ecko Unltd. and Zoo York in top executive positions. Her extensive experience with opening and managing own retail, partner stores, concessions and shop-in-shops in 23 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia make her an expert in expansion and brand building. Read more of her work here and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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