Standing in Line Could be Our New Normal

Even though businesses are preparing to reopen, the lines won't go away any time soon

NBCUniversal, Inc.

San Diego may be moving ahead in Stage 2 of California's reopening plan, but that doesn't mean life is returning to normal. Restaurants and businesses will still have a smaller number of people inside, which means lines will likely continue.

"Is it going to become more of a chore if you go to a mall, a department store or a grocery store?" asks SDSU Marketing Professor Miro Copic. "Is it something people still find pleasurable? A lot of people like to go shopping."

Shoppers in line at a Trader Joes in Hillcrest told us they are already used to waiting in line.

"It's keeping us safe," said shopper Jen Hughes. "If you compare it to the things generations before us had to go through, this is nothing."

People were used to waiting in line for major shopping events like Black Friday, or a smartphone release, but not on an every day basis. Copic says stores will have to find ways to keep people interested even while they wait in line, just like Disney does.

"It's where consumers are less focused on the wait so you're always moving in some way," said Copic. "[Stores have to deal with] people's patience, given that online we expect results in a nano-second."

Copic says sporting events could also take a very long time to fill once people are allowed back inside stadiums.

"There's going to be some adjustments," said Copic. "Consumers might actually back off of certain [behaviors] which won't be good to stimulate the economy."

The lines are already changing how some San Diegans shop at the grocery store.

"I try to go out to stores less," said shopper Alex Wilmot. "So I less frequently stand in line and get everything I need at once."

Copic says he expects lines to continue for at least the next four months. While some stores may see a drop in sales because of long waits, he thinks it could actually help other businesses.

"Those retailers that don't get as much traffic in general. [People] might go there because they have to wait somewhere else."

Until occupancy restrictions are lifted, or social distancing changes, Copic says it will be hard to avoid the lines.

"This means we'll be doing it everywhere, all the time," said Copic. "But we do have something in our innate behavior that we're willing to wait for something we want to buy."

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