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11/13/2020

Sephora, Cole Hann, TD Bank on best practices for maintaining dark stores

Deena Amato-McCoy
SPECS Program Director
Deena Amato-McCoy profile picture

Retailers learned an important lesson since March: Temporarily shuttered stores need constant attention. 

Store inspections conducted during the pandemic revealed unexpected damages, many of which caused store preservation work orders to surge. As a result, retailers are rethinking best practices when it comes to inspecting and managing stores during extended closures.

Retailers didn’t miss a beat when it came to proactively cleaning and disinfecting stores before re-opening for customers. However, repairing unexpected damages caused by faulty plumbing, loss of electricity, and other factors gave some companies a run for their money.

“We did a decent job envisioning what maintenance would be needed before reopening but some issues were unexpected,” Tony DiSpirito, director of store preservation at Sephora, told Chain Store Age. 

“We had minor leaks that stained or partially collapsed a ceiling, or caused a floor to buckle, for example,” he said. “However, these [issues] resulted in a significant uptick in work order volume for our team, and simultaneously handling different projects across all of our stores was tough.” 

Looking back, DiSpirito would have conducted proactive assessments to stay abreast of potential repairs.

“If I could do things differently, I would have sent out preventive maintenance teams regularly to address these issues while stores were temporarily closed,” he said. (Want to hear more lessons these retailers learned during the pandemic? Click here to register for Chain Store Age’s X/SPECS conference, Nov. 17-18.)

TECHNOLOGY

Savvy retailers agree that security camera and closed circuit television (CCTV) systems provide benefits well beyond loss prevention.   TD Bank for example, used its fleet of security cameras to remotely check on internal maintenance and security needs at physical locations throughout the pandemic.

“Technology is our friend,” according to Aaron Ancello, VP, regional facilities manager lead, TD Bank. “In addition to successfully enabling us to keep an eye on locations where [maintenance teams] don’t have a physical presence, we also use [the system] to monitor and adjust location temperatures and lighting needs.”

Cole Haan typically uses its CCTV system across all stores to monitor the cash wrap and high-ticket items. Looking ahead, Eric Korth, Cole Haan’s retail facilities manager, has bigger plans for the technology.

“If we used the cameras to focus on store-wide conditions — not just loss of product — during the pandemic, we could’ve better assessed potential damages, especially across stores that were vandalized,” he explained. “By expanding and recording store activity, we could share specific details with our vendors assessing and making repairs. Capturing more first-time fixes will also help cut our repair and maintenance expenses."

Many companies now mandate inspections of physical locations during extended closures. However, typically only store personnel have a key, “which limits the ability have a store inspected by a third party,” TD Bank’s Ancello explained. 

By adopting a national key program, retailers’ high-level operations and real estate associates are entrusted with a “master key” to specific locations. “In the event of extended closures, natural disasters or other business disturbances, these associates can provide this key to vendors or employees who can access the location, perform inspections and address circumstances,” he added. 

Retailers can complement master key programs with an electronic access control (EAC) system that requires an additional credential — such as a card, fob, or fingerprint— to open a door. Besides restricting access to unidentified users, the system also records every door entry, creating an audit trail of all users.