By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Retailers would like the state to move toward customers coming into stores by appointment-only and continuation of curbside pick-up sales, but allow for cash sales as the state begins to reopen from its closures due to the pandemic.
“There isn’t any going back whatsoever to the way things were before,” said Nancy Kyle, president and chief executive officer of the New Hampshire Retail Association, told the new Governor’s Economic Re-opening Task Force on Friday.
The NHRA represents 18,000 retailers which employed 94,410 before the COVID-19 crisis.
Many of those stores are now closed to people coming in, and some have been able to provide curbside pick-up of merchandise. Kyle said in that way, the state is better than many others as it allowed for curbside pickup.
She urged retailers to be able to take cash as she said many people who don’t have credit cards are potentially discriminated against.
Because of a lack of a sales tax, New Hampshire enjoys more cross-state retail than others but with Massachusetts being a “hot spot” for COVID-19 with more than 41,000 confirmed cases compared to New Hampshire’s 1,720, there are concerns particularly for retailers in the southern portion of the state. Fifty-three people in New Hampshire have died from COVID-19.
Retailers, Kyle said, “are very anxious to get back to business but are cognizant we have to do it safely,” she said.
Kyle said getting people back into the stores is going to be an issue because of fear for their safety. She said uniform policy and publicity could come from the state. Another problem getting back to business is employees.
The fact that unemployment is sometimes better with an extra $600 a week than regular earnings makes it hard to find people willing to go back to work, she said.
If the state puts specific mandates, like safe coverings over mouth and nose, “you can’t have retail employees enforce that,” she said.
Occupancy should not be done on a basis of square footage, Kyle said, and left to the individual retailer. She also suggested the recommendations be consistent throughout the state so it is fair to all retailers.
Kyle added procedures could be developed for employees that would limit social distancing, adjust break rooms, limit meetings to 10, encourage use of gloves, create procedures for sanitizing spaces and frequently used surfaces and, shorten business hours to allow for a thorough cleaning, and quarantine returned items.
John Nyhan, a member who represents the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce, asked what would happen when people try on clothing and shoes and Kyle said she hadn’t thought of that possibility.
Also providing input to the task force Friday was Jim Roche, president of the Business and Industry Association, representing manufacturing and as a statewide chamber of commerce.
Roche said many of the manufacturing members have been able to stay open as they have been considered essential.
His concerns included:
– workplace health concerns
– potential liability
– access to testing and personal protective equipment
Roche said a lack of guidance from the government has meant that the manufacturers are “flying blind.”
One size is not going to work for all, he noted, but there should be some basic guidelines available to allow manufacturers to build from.
BIA is creating a working document on that and will share with the task force, Roche said.
Patricia Tilley, deputy director for the state Division of Public Health, started with what will be a weekly summary of public health metrics that will be considered weekly.
She said what is reassuring is 36 percent of the people in New Hampshire who got COVID-19 have recovered.
About 3 percent, sadly, have died, she said.
What she said the demographic information has found is that most of the people who have gotten COVID-19 are working-age people but the direst and most serious impacts are to the older generation.
Presentations for next week will be:
• 2-5 pm, April 27: Outdoor recreation (NAICS: 71) and hospitals ((NAICS: 62)
• 3-5 pm, April 28: Educational (NAICS: 61) and other services (NAICS: 81)
• 3-5 pm, April 29: TBA
• 1-3 pm, April 30: Public comments
• 9-11 am, May 1: Public comments
• 3-5 pm, May 1: Task force meeting
To listen to the meetings, call 1-800-356-8278 and use the PIN access code 194499 or 600747.
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