COVID-19 has changed us. Has changed the way we experience, interact even understand physical space and physical boundaries. More importantly has raised even more the importance of maintaining our personal and intimate space in anthropological terms (Hall, 1966) especially in areas with high congestion such as retail spaces.

Hall (1966), Proxemics Classfication System

#COVID-19 : Retail Store Changes

In fact, during the last months transparent plexiglass boundaries at the cashier registry locations, gloves and antiseptics in the entrance of stores and labels counting the number of people in the area, are some of the measure that retail stores, which are still operating, established so as to ensure that touch is as little as possible and at the same time social distancing is maintained.

So does this mean that we will not use retail spaces anymore? Does this mean that the importance of physical space for people is diminished? or that we will be executing everything through a screen from our secured home?

I don’t think so! Humans are essentially social beings. Sooner or later retail stores will adapt to the changes and more importantly people will gradually feel secure again. The physical space of retail stores will not die but rather thrive maybe in a different way.

#Starbucks: An interesting Approach

An interesting approach is recently proposed by Starbucks with the implementation of what is called a “Monitor & Adapt” Phase.  Specifically, Starbucks will “gradually expand and shift the customer experiences enabled in stores based on a clear decision-making framework” (Starbucks Stories, 2020)  which makes sure that an appropriate store format is used for each community. In essence, it is proposed a more tailored-made and flexible store format based on communities’ reactions.

This approach highlights again the importance of understanding how people interact with space in order to be able to optimize the relationship between built environment and human behaviors. In that sense, customers experiences and reactions could become the insights we are looking for in order to understand what we should do – both retailers as well as architects who will address the design of retail spaces in post COVID-19 era.

Hall, E., 1966. The Hidden Dimension, Man’s Use of Space in Public and Private. London: The Bodley Head Ltd.

Starbucks, 2020. Navigating through COVID-19 [online]. Available at: https://stories.starbucks.com/stories/2020/navigating-through-covid-19/


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