Retailers and the private sector have hailed the government's decision to allow department stores, malls and other businesses to reopen on Sunday, hoping the move will boost the sentiment and spending of consumers.
"This is considered good news after a long two months of waiting," said Piyawan Leelasompop, executive vice-president for marketing at Central Department Store Ltd (CDS), part of SET-listed Central Retail Corporation. "The sooner malls are allowed to reopen, the faster it will stimulate the economy. Although the reopening is allowed on a gradual basis, it is better than leaving the department stores or shopping malls to further stand still."
According to Ms Piyawan, Central is ready to reopen its department stores across the country on Sunday, and all 23 CDS stores nationwide are adhering to the "Central Clean & Safe" concept, which has five principles with 26 stringent measures, all following government guidelines.
The company has already adjusted the layout of some units using technology to make customers shop with confidence, feeling assured of their safety.
All staff at department stores will wear a mask and face shield at all times while working, sanitising their hands before and after serving customers and getting temperature checks every three hours. The company has also improved ventilation and increased air change rates to more than 10 times per hour, beyond normal requirements, with short-wavelength UV sanitising units installed in the ventilation system.
Every sample product, tester and item that is tried will be sanitised after use. All fitting rooms will be sanitised after every use.
"We've also installed automatic UV-C sanitising units on escalator handrails at some stores, including Chidlom and Lat Phrao, and will roll them out at 10 stores in Bangkok," Ms Piyawan said.
Vorathat Siriphand, senior vice-president and head of retail support at CDS, said the company has been on full alert about the impact of the coronavirus on its operations even before malls were ordered to close on March 22 and is seeking new equipment to support all CDS operations.
"We believe the measures we prepare for reopening stores are beyond the government's requirement and customers' expectations," Mr Vorathat said.
Though people are vigilant about social distancing, the company has prepared 8-10 people per floor at its department stores to remind customers to maintain a 1-2 metre distance from each other.
Ms Piyawan expects about 70% of customers to come back to shop. But she said low- and middle-income earners are likely to remain cautious about spending, while upper-income shoppers have not felt much impact from the pandemic.
"We will closely monitor shoppers' behaviour for one month before revising our business plan to fit new customers' requirements," she said.
Somphol Tripopnart, managing director of shopping centre business at MBK Plc, also praised the government's decision and said MBK is set to reopen on Sunday.