Community first: Spotlight on retail innovation in the pandemic

Doing good never goes out of style, and as families across the country do their part to stay safe during this unprecedented health crisis, retailers are putting customers before business and innovating to accommodate.

Through unlikely collaborations, giveaways and utilizing shared resources, retailers large and small are finding convenient and creative ways to serve their communities.

NRF’s Kris Stewart and Susan Reda join host Bill Thorne in this episode of Retail Gets Real to highlight some of their favorite examples of retail service that will stick with them long after the crisis is over.

Mount Royal Soap Co., Charm City Meadworks and Waverly Color, Baltimore

When Baltimore’s Mount Royal Soap Co. pivoted to produce in-demand hand sanitizer gel, local craft beverage company Charm City Meadworks offered space in its 7,500-square-foot warehouse for the soap company’s production. When packaging ran low, tattoo pigment maker Waverly Color provided its unused tattoo ink bottles to hold the hand sanitizer. The companies are working together to produce 10,000-15,000 units of sanitizer weekly, supplying area hospitals that faced a surge in coronavirus cases and donating to community organizations to help populations in need.

man wears mask while filling container of hand sanitzer
Staff members at Charm City Meadworks dispense hand sanitizer provided by Mount Royal Soap Co. Photo by Jasper Dudley, marketing manager for Charm City Meadworks.

Mary Brown’s Chicken & Taters, Canada

Canadian fast food restaurant Mary Brown’s Chicken & Taters paid to lift all paywall content from media conglomerate Postmedia in April, allowing Canadians to access and “keep abreast” of the latest news surrounding coronavirus. In an additional effort to serve, the restaurant is also delivering meals to front-line workers. 

Ministry of Supply, Boston

Clothing company Ministry of Supply is producing large quantities of masks for local hospitals using a 3D printer that produces a single mask in about seven minutes. Its community has helped the company raise over $50,000 to continue the effort.


When shoe retailer Rothy’s asked its Instagram followers how the brand could assist with COVID-19 aid efforts, feedback led to the Open Innovation Coalition. The effort provides a network for brands to collaborate on COVID-19 relief with a goal of helping 1 million individuals in the next three months. They are currently designing and sourcing 100,000 non-medical masks to donate to those in need. 

Best Buy

Best Buy is allowing consumers to schedule appointments for all their tech needs and also providing repairs and installations, following strict social distancing guidelines. Consumers who schedule appointments will be contacted by phone, made aware of the retailer’s safety measures, then informed again when they pick up their item in store.

Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club’s “Shop from Your Car” service for elderly and at-risk populations allows team members to take orders from consumer vehicles, shop and load merchandise without consumers needing to leave their cars. 


Zappos launched a Customer Service for Anything hotline, which helped a New York health system running low on supplies locate 300 pulse oximeters.

Listen to the full episode to hear more examples of how retailers are adapting in the pandemic, putting customers and community first.

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