Back to Business Safely: Retail Guide

North Carolina's modified Stay at Home Order (Executive Order 138) goes into effect at 5:00pm on May 8th. This action permits retail businesses to open within certain parameters. Below you will find required and recommended guidelines and actions to reopen your business safely.
Under Executive Order 138, "Retail Business" means any business in which customers enter a space to purchase goods or services, including but not limited to grocery stores, convenience stores, large-format retail stores, pharmacies, banks, ABC stores, hardware stores, and vehicle dealerships. "Retail Business" also includes retail establishments operated by the State, its political subdivisions, or agencies thereof. 

Required Actions


  • Post signs related to customer responsibilities and mandatory occupancy limits.


  • Limit customer occupancy to not more than 50% of stated fire capacity. Retail Businesses that do not have a stated fire capacity must limit customer occupancy to twelve (12) customers for every one thousand (1,000) square feet of the location's total square footage, including the parts of the location that are not accessible to customers.

  • Limit customer occupancy so that customers can stay six (6) feet apart, even if this requires reducing occupancy beneath the 50% limit stated above.

  • Direct customers to stay at least six (6) feet apart from one another and from workers, except at point of sale if applicable.

  • Mark six (6) feet of spacing in lines at point of sale and in other high-traffic areas for customers, such as at deli counters and near high-volume products.


  • Perform frequent and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas with an EPA-approved disinfectant for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

  • Make hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) available and have a plan to systematically and frequently check availability.  Make soap and hand drying materials available at sinks.

  • Make disinfecting wipes and/or sprays that are EPA approved against SARS-CoV-2 available for shared items such as shopping carts.


  • Have a plan for immediately isolating employee from work if symptoms develop.

  • Screen employees daily for symptoms before entering the workplace and immediately send symptomatic workers home to isolate.

  • Educate employees and patrons on preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

Recommended Actions

The following button provides a downloadable and editable NCDHHS checklist to guide business owners through these required and recommended actions as they prepare to reopen.

Social Distancing Plans

  • Designate times for seniors and other high-risk populations to access services.

  • Place markings on the floor and designate entrance and exit points to promote social distancing.

  • Clearly mark six (6) feet of spacing in lines and other areas where people congregate and enforce those limitations.

  • Clearly mark six (6) feet of spacing in a designated area outside the establishment where people congregate due to limits on indoor capacity.

  • Develop a plan to limit occupancy of all operating establishments to no more than 50% of the stated fire capacity, post the Emergency Maximum Occupancy and enforce it.

  • Develop and use systems that allow for online, email, or telephone ordering, no-contact curbside or drive-through pickup or home delivery, and contact-free checkout.

  • High-volume Retail Businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, are strongly encouraged to take the following additional measures to reduce transmission:

    • Use acrylic or plastic shields at cash registers.

    • Clearly mark designated entry and exit points.

    • Provide assistance with routing through aisles in the store.



  • Direct workers to stay at least six (6) feet apart from one another and from customers, to the greatest extent possible.

  • Have workers wear cloth face coverings; provide workers with Face Coverings; and provide information on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth Face Coverings.

  • Promote telework.

  • Promote hygiene, including frequent hand-washing and use of hand sanitizer.

  • Limit non-essential travel.

  • Limit meetings to no more than ten (10) people.

  • Make accommodations for high-risk workers.

  • Encourage sick employees to stay home and support with sick leave policy.

  • Exclude employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 per CDC guidance,
    until they say "yes" to all three questions: 

    1. Has it been at least ten (10) days since you first had symptoms? 

    2. Has it been at least three (3) days since you’ve had a fever without using fever reducing medicine?

    3. Has it been at least three (3) days since your symptoms have improved?

  • Provide workers with education about COVID-19 prevention strategies, using methods like videos, webinars, or FAQs.

  • If a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19, follow the CDC guidance.

  • Share information about available help lines (2-1-1 and Hope4NC Helpline, 1-855-587-3463).


  • Ensure compliance & minimize legal risk

    • Ensure your business is following best-practices and guidelines issued by State Licensing Boards and the NCDHHS.

    • Consult with a lawyer to ensure legal risk and liability is minimized.

  • Water and Air Systems

    • Check that building water and water systems are safe to use and minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water. 

    • Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, or other methods. 

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