From masks to social distancing requirements, retailers find reopening poses its own challenges

Updated: May. 5, 2020 at 5:13 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii retailers are scrambling to figure out how they’ll call back their workers and reopen their doors after the governor gave the green light to do so.

On Oahu, the governor initially said they could reopen Thursday.

But on Tuesday night, the Governor’s Office pushed that back to May 15.

On Maui, retailers and shopping malls have no set date for reopening.

Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii, said it was in the process of putting together suggestions for re-opening as the governor made his announcement. Those guidelines will now be fast-tracked.

“it’s getting the employees back, contacting them, getting them ready," Yamaki said. "It’s also determining who comes back (and) how long are you going to be open for?”

The governor’s order will allow tens of thousands of Hawaii workers to return to work, but he stressed that businesses need to take precautions to ensure that customers stay at least 6 feet apart and wear masks.

Policing those guidelines might be particularly tough for small businesses.

[Read more: Ige allows shopping malls, other businesses to reopen in ‘phase 1’ of restarting economy]

Yamaki said that many of the social distancing guidelines issued so far are for large grocery stores. Social distancing in smaller retailers poses new headaches.

During the state shutdown, Eden in Love was able to retain 75% of employees by boosting web sales. Resuming work in a brick and mortar store will require adjustments to keep everyone safe — and separated.

“This is totally new," said co-owner Tanna Dang.

“My sales people have to greet, talk about sales promotions, and now make sure you’re wearing a mask.”

Shopping malls will also be allowed to reopen Thursday. But it’s unclear if they’ll actually do so.

In a statement, Ala Moana Center — Hawaii’s largest shopping mall — said it was working to “safely reopen” but did not offer an exact date for when that would happen.

“The well-being of our guests, tenants and employees is is our highest priority,” the statement said.

Pearlridge Center issued a similar statement, saying it was “working on making necessary preparations to help support our merchants and ... (provide) the safest reopening experience.”

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