As the weather turns colder and shoppers come indoors, the allowable store occupancy limits of 30% may be creating unintended consequences for retailers and consumers alike. Washington Retail CEO Renée Sunde sent a letter this week requesting that Governor Jay Inslee increase allowable pandemic-related store occupancies from 30% to 50% as the holiday shopping season approaches.
In her letter, Sunde notes that the current occupancy threshold has resulted in customers clustering in waiting lines outside of stores, either outside or in malls. The lines impede the ability for proper social distancing to protect against the spread of COVID-19, she wrote.
Throughout the past 6 months retailers have responded well to guidelines requiring the wearing of masks and ensuring social distancing. In most situations retail customers spend less time in stores than in other settings such as restaurants and theaters. With these factors in place stores should be allowed to safely welcome more in-store shoppers as consumer demand grows.
The request also notes that adjusting current occupancy requirements upward to 50% of capacity would allow many retailers to hire back employees who have lost their jobs due to reduced sales. The shift would improve state retail tax collections; supporting continued economic recovery throughout the 4th quarter of 2020.