Retail Signage During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Main Article Content

Joanne E. McNeish

Abstract

Early in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact countries across the world. Within weeks, people’s normal social behavior had to be changed in order to stop the spread of the disease. In Canada, where this study takes place, governments and public health departments were the primary and trusted information sources. Photographs of retail signs were taken by the author in one neighborhood in a major Canadian city in March and April. Along with descriptive information, the author speculates on the meaning conveyed by the printer-paper signs, beyond their traditional role of supporting wayfinding. Paper’s relative fragility may have simultaneously reflected the uncertainty that people felt in the early days of the pandemic, while its familiar and timeless presence may have provided a sense of emotional security and direction. Marking a return to “business as usual”, stores replaced many, but not all of the informal signs with professionally produced and branded signs suggesting that the early “blind panic” had been replaced by a form of “steady state”. One could say that retailers demonstrated corporate social responsibility through their efforts in creating and posting the signs to create awareness of, educate, and reinforce the new and changing social distancing behaviors.

Article Details

Section
Articles

References

Adam A. and Jensen J. D. (2016). What is the effectiveness of obesity related interventions at retail grocery stores and supermarkets? A Systematic Review. BMC Public Health 16(1), 1247-1271. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-016-3985-x

Aaronson, S. A. (2003). Corporate responsibility in the global village: The British role model and the American laggard. Business and Society Review 10(3), 309-38. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8594.00167

Badami, N. (2018). Informality as fix repurposing jugaad in the post-crisis economy. Third Text 32(1), 46-54. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09528822.2018.1442190

Beck, L. (2020). “How to stock your pantry if you’re worried about a coronavirus quarantine. Globe and Mail, 6 March. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/article-how-to-stock-your-pantry-if-youre-worried-about-a-coronavirus/

Benzie, R. (2020). “Disobeying the covid-19 emergency law could cost you $100,000 and one year in jail.” The Toronto Star, 31 March. https://www.thestar.com/politics/federal/2020/03/31/disobeying-the-covid-19-emergency-law-could-cost-you-100000-andone-year-in-jail.html

Brown, D. (2020). “Individuals, businesses that defy emergency orders could be fined.” CBC News, 20 March. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/opp-warns-businesses-social-distancing-1.5505439

Calabretta, D. (2020). “Panic buying and hoarding begins.” Strategy, 14 March. https://strategyonline.ca/2020/04/23/metro-wants-people-to-get-through-the-pandemic-together/

Carlberg, A. (2020). “Signs posted outside Toronto restaurants show new normal.” blogTO, 11 April. https://www.blogto.com/eat_drink/2020/03/signs-posted-outside-toronto-restaurants-show-new-normal/

Carpenter, J. M. and Moore, M. (2006). Consumer demographics, store attributes, and retail format choice in the US grocery market. International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management 34(6), 434-452. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/09590550610667038

City of Toronto. (2016). “Ward 15-Don Valley West.” Canadian Census Data. https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/data-research-maps/neighbourhoods-communities/ward-profiles/ward-15-don-valley-west/

Craig, J., Scala, I. K. and Bevington, W. (2006). Designing with Type: The Essential Guide to Typography. New York: Watson-Guptill.

Da Silva, R. V. and Alwi, S. (2006). Cognitive, affective attributes and conative, behavioral responses in retail corporate branding. Journal of Product and Brand Management 15(5), 293-305. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/10610420610685703

Declerq, K. (2020). “Ontario corporations, individuals could face ‘staggering’ fines for price gouging.” CTV News, 30 March. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-corporations-individuals-could-face-staggering-fines-for-price-gouging-1.4872588

Donnelly, A. (2020). “What Canada is doing to contain COVID-19 as coronavirus inches closer to being declared a pandemic.” National Post, 28 February. https://nationalpost.com/health/what-canada-is-doing-to-contain-covid-19

Fortin, J. (2020). “Starbucks goes from sip and stay to grab and go.” New York Times, 16 March. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/16/business/starbucks-to-go-coronavirus.html

Gasser, M., Boeke, J., Haffernan, M. and Tan, R. (2005). The Influence of Font Type on Information Recall. North American Journal of Psychology 7(2), 181-188.

Government of Canada. (2020). “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Awareness resources.” 26 March. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/awareness-resources.html

Harris, R. (2020). “How will our grocery supply chain weather the pandemic?” Canadian Grocer, 5 June http://www.canadiangrocer.com/worth-reading/how-will-our-grocery-supply-chain-weather-the-pandemic-95311

Haynes, D. (2020). “Wanted and needed: coronavirus PSAs that digital signage networks can use.” Sixteen-Nine, 10 March. https://www.sixteen-nine.net/2020/03/10/wanted-and-needed-coronavirus-psas-that-digital-signage-networks-can-use/

Huddleston, P., Behe, B. K., Minahan, S. and Fernandez, R. T. (2015). Seeking attention: An eye tracking study of in-store merchandise displays. International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management 43(6), 561-574. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJRDM-06-2013-0120

Jenkins, R. (2020). “Coronavirus: the stages of public concern.” Polling Guru, 1 April. http://pollingguru.ca/coronavirus/

Juni, S., and Gross, J. S. (2008). Emotional and persuasive perception of fonts. Perceptual and Motor Skills 106(1), 35–42. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.106.1.35-42

Kaspar, K., Wehlitz, T., von Knobelsdorff, S., Wulf, T., Antoinette, M. and von Saldern, O. (2015). A matter of font type: The effect of serifs on the evaluation of scientific abstracts. International Journal of Psychology. 50(5), 372-378. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ijop.12160

Kellaris, J. J. and Machleit, K. A. (2016). Signage as marketing communication: A conceptual model and research propositions. Interdisciplinary Journal of Signage and Wayfinding 1(1), 1-17. DOI: https://doi.org/10.15763/issn.2470-9670.2016.v1.i1.a4

Khachatryan, H., Rihn, A., Behe, B., Hall, C., Campbell, B., Dennis, J. and Yue, C. (2018). Visual attention, buying impulsiveness, and consumer behavior. Marketing Letters 29(2), 23–35. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11002-018-9446-9

Leger. (2020). “How concerned are Canadians about the Coronavirus?: A Leger poll.” 14 February. https://leger360.com/surveys/canadians-concerns-about-the-coronavirus/

Lehman, P. H. and Geller, E. S. (2004). Behavior analysis and environmental protection: Accomplishments and potential for more. Behavior and Social Issues 13(1), 13-32. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/bsi.v13i1.33

McCarthy-Tetrault (2020). “COVID-19: Emergency measures tracker.” https://www.mccarthy.ca/en/insights/articles/covid-19-emergency-measures-tracker.

McNeish, J. (2019). Paper Flyers in the Age of Social Media. Conference on Historical Analysis and Research in Marketing (CHARM): Exploring Identity Building: Marketing History as an Instrument of Transformation 19, 380-383.

Mercer, J. (2020). “Signs of the times: a study of COVID-19 business closure notices in St. John’s.” The Telegram, 8 April. https://www.thetelegram.com/news/local/signs-of-the-times-a-study-of-covid-19-business-closure-notices-in-st-johns-435524/

Mollerup, P. (2005). Wayshowing. A Guide to Environmental Signage Principles and Practices. Baden: Lars Muller.

Moret-Tatay, C. and Perea, M. (2011). Do serifs provide an advantage in the recognition of written words? Journal of Cognitive Psychology 23(5), 619–624. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/20445911.2011.546781

Moghimi, E. and Wiktorowicz, M. E. (2019). Regulating the fast-food landscape: Canadian news media representation of the healthy menu choices act. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16(24), 4939-4960. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16244939

News Staff. (2020). “Torontonians face up to $5k fine for violating physical distancing by-law.” CityNews, 2 April. https://toronto.citynews.ca/2020/04/02/torontonians-face-up-to-5k-fine-for-violating-physical-distancing-by-law/

Ontario Government. (2020). “List of essential workplaces.” 3 April. https://www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces#section-3

Ontario Government. (2020). O. Reg. 82/20: Order Under Subsection 7.0.2 (4). Closure of Places of Non-Essential Businesses under Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9, Versions: April 16, 2020-May 6, 2020; April 9, 2020-April 15, 2020; April 3, 2020-April 8, 2020; March 24, 2020-April 2, 2020. https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/200082

Ottawa Public Health. (2020). SFOA 2017 Guide for Retailers (updated 2020). 3 January. http://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/public-health-topics/resources/Documents/SFOA-2017-Guide-for-Retailers-2020---2020-01-28.pdf

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2020). “Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).” https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health.html

Quill (n.d.). “When to use multipurpose paper vs. copy paper.” https://www.quill.com/content/index/paper-buying-guide/paper-comparisons/default.cshtml

Rahman, M. N. and Mehta, V. (2020). Signage form and character: A window to neighborhood visual identity. Interdisciplinary Journal of Signage and Wayfinding 4(1), 35-48.

Ray, J. L. and Smith, A. D. (2012). Using photographs to research organizations: Evidence, considerations, and application in a field study. Organizational Research Methods 15(2), 288-315. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1094428111431110

Robertson, S. K. (2020). “Could social distancing create a long-term shift for the grocery industry?” Globe and Mail, 5 April. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-could-social-distancing-create-a-long-term-shift-for-the-grocery/

Roggeveen, A., Nordfält, J. and Grewal, D. (2013). Do digital displays enhance sales? Role of retail format and message content. Journal of Retailing 9(1), 122-131. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretai.2015.08.001

Shaikh, D., Chaparro, B., and Fox, D. (2006). Perception of fonts: Perceived personality traits and uses. Usability News 8(1), 1–8. SignMedia. (2020). COVID-19 and what it means for the sign industry.” SignMedia, 13 April. https://www.signmedia.ca/covid-19-and-what-it-means-for-the-sign-industry/

Sarjakoski, T., Kettunen, P., Halkosaari, H.-M., Laakso, M., Rönneberg, M., and Stigmar, H. (2013). Landmarks and a hiking ontology to support wayfinding in a National Park during different seasons. In: Cognitive and Linguistic Aspects of Geographic Space. Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography, eds. M. Raubal, D. Mark, and A. Frank. Berlin: Springer.

Stern, N. (2020). “Four waves of change are coming to grocery retail in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.” Forbes, 30 March.
https://www.forbes.com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.forbes.com/sites/neilstern/2020/03/30/grocery-retail-four-waves-of-changeare-coming/amp/

Sundar, A. and Kellaris, J. J. (2017). How logo colors influence shoppers’ judgments of retailer ethicality: The mediating role of perceived eco-friendliness. Journal of Business Ethics 146(3), 685–701. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2918-4

Toh, M. (2020). “It’s crazy: Panic buying forces stores to limit purchases of toilet paper and mask.” CNN, 6 March. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/06/business/coronavirus-global-panic-buying-toilet-paper/index.html

Tumilty, R. (2020). COVID-19: “Trudeau to Canadians: Enough is enough. go home and stay home.” The National Post, 23 March. https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/covid-19-ontario-reports-78-new-cases-the-most-in-one-day-so-far

Vizcaíno, F. V. (2018). Beyond window signs: Understanding the affect-based effects of window signs on store patronage intentions. Psychology and Marketing 35(7), 542-552. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.21105

Werner, C. M., Rhodes, M. U., and Partain, K. K. (1998). Designing effective instructional signs with schema theory: Case studies of polystyrene recycling. Environment and Behavior 30(5), 709-735. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/001391659803000506

World Health Organization. (2020). “Key considerations for repatriation and quarantine of travellers in relation to the outbreak of novel coronavirus.” WHO, 11 February. https://www.who.int/news-room/articles-detail/key-considerations-for-repatriation-and-quarantine-of-travellers-in-relation-to-the-outbreak-of-novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov

World Health Organization. (2020). International Health Regulations, 2005. Geneva: WHO.

Xnage. (2020). “How much does digital signage cost? An exclusive guide.” https://www.xynage.io/blog/digital-signage-cost/

Ziliani, C., Ieva, M., Gázquez-Abad, J. C., and D’Attoma, I. (2019). Retail promotional communication: The comparative effectiveness of print versus online In: Exploring Omnichannel Retailing 2019, eds W. Piotrowicz and R. Cuthbertson. Oxford: Springer.