After halting all retail operations — in-store and online — a month ago, Patagonia outlined how it’s going to begin serving customers again.
You still can’t step foot in a Patagonia store. But head over to Patagonia.com, and you can once again load a cart, check out, and look forward to a shipment of high-end outdoor gear.
The retail giant today announced its site was again up and running, ready to serve the public. However, this does not mark a full return to business as usual. Quite the contrary: Patagonia today looks markedly different than it did before coronavirus inundated headlines and hospital beds.
Hard lessons in social distancing, sanitization, and health evaluation have forced Patagonia’s Reno, Nevada, distribution center to completely rethink how it does business — for the well-being of both its staff and you, the end customer.
“I’ve never dealt with a crisis or situation of this magnitude and importance. In fact, to my knowledge, modern society has never dealt with anything like it,” Todd Soller, who oversees global logistics for Patagonia, said in an internal interview.
Here’s how Patagonia will handle workplace safety and begin the process of fulfilling online orders.
Is Patagonia Open?
Yes. The Ventura, California-based retailer quietly flipped the proverbial lights on earlier this week. However, that only applies to a skeleton crew workforce who will oversee online order and return fulfillment. All retail locations, at present, remain closed to the public.
“For this first phase, we will focus on processing current outgoing orders. Returns and exchanges are being accepted, but customers should expect delays,” Soller said. Soller also noted that wholesale and pro-account orders would also be fulfilled.
Furthermore, he said that while retail locations will stay closed to the public, they may assist Reno’s online fulfillment by serving as “mini warehouse[s].”
Patagonia: COVID-19 Safety Measures
Soller outlined a stark new look for its distribution center. Measures the brand instituted based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines dramatically limit the number of shared workspaces and contact with other employees.
For starters, Patagonia said the Reno warehouse will staff less than 20% of its original workforce before it begins to ramp up to normal operation.
According to Soller, the brand surveyed employees to see who was willing to come back to work and then vetted those to see who either exhibited symptoms common to COVID-19 or had close contact with someone who did. Those workers, the brand said, were not immediately eligible to return to work.
Initially, the Reno warehouse will have roughly one employee per 8,000-10,000 square feet. Plus, Soller confirmed the brand was instituting a 10-foot social distancing protocol. That’s almost twice the 6-foot mandate recommended by federal officials. And according to Soller, “there will usually be 30-40 feet of distance between members.”
Patagonia also said it would stagger shifts to limit the frequency of person-to-person interaction. And a cleaning crew will sweep work areas between shifts. To further minimize any interaction, Patagonia also taped the floors and “designed a directional flow for the buildings so that people don’t need to pass each other during the day.”
Finally, Patagonia said it will provide gloves and non-medical cloth face masks to its workers. And it has even stopped the use of shared time clocks.
Patagonia Repairs, Worn Wear During Coronavirus
At present, Patagonia has not reopened Worn Wear, the brand’s e-commerce site for recycled and repaired gear. Soller said Worn Wear will reopen once its logistics partner, San Francisco-based Trove, resumes operations.
The brand also asked that customers hold onto any repairs they want to have serviced for the time being. Soller acknowledged the company hoped to begin processing repairs “in the coming weeks,” but noted that Patagonia utilizes several repair partners across the U.S. And because many of those businesses aren’t up and running, Patagonia won’t know the estimated turnaround time until it starts working through incoming repairs.
The brand also said that while it will still accept returns, its focus to start will be on outgoing orders. So if you need to return or exchange an item, expect delays.
In short, hang tight and be patient. You can start shopping for Patagonia now. And the brand said it will provide free shipping on all domestic orders. But due to the new protocols, customers should expect shipping to take up to 7 days. And no expedited shipping will be available for the time being.