Retail Store Customer Flow and COVID-19 Transmission

Retail store customer flow and COVID-19 transmission Robert A. Shumsky, Laurens Debo, Rebecca M. Lebeaux, Quang P. Nguyen, Anne G. Hoen Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Mar 2021, 118 (11) e2019225118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2019225118

Tuck School of Business Working Paper No. 3689364

24 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2021 Last revised: 27 May 2021

See all articles by Robert A. Shumsky

Robert A. Shumsky

Dartmouth College - Tuck School of Business

Laurens Debo

Dartmouth College - Tuck School of Business

Rebecca Lebeaux

Department of Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine

Quang Nguyen

Department of Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine

Anne Hoen

Department of Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine

Date Written: December 23, 2020

Abstract

We examine how operational changes in customer flows in retail stores affect the rate of COVID-19 transmission. We combine a model of customer movement with two models of disease transmission: direct exposure when two customers are in close proximity and wake exposure when one customer is in the airflow behind another customer. We find that the effectiveness of some operational interventions are sensitive to the primary mode of transmission. Restricting customer flow to one-way movement is highly effective if direct exposure is the dominant mode of transmission. In particular, the rate of direct transmission under full compliance with one-way movement is less than one-third the rate under two-way movement. Directing customers to follow one-way flow, however, is not effective if wake exposure dominates. We find that two other interventions - reducing the speed variance of customers and throughput control - can be effective whether direct or wake transmission is dominant. We also examine the trade-off between customer throughput and the risk of infection to customers, and we show how the optimal throughput rate drops rapidly as the population prevalence rises.

Note: Funding: RML was supported by the Host-Microbe Interactions Training Grant NIAID T32AI007519.

Declaration of Interests: The authors state that no conflicts of interest exists.

Keywords: COVID-19, health care operations, industries: retail, service operations management

JEL Classification: I, M

Suggested Citation

Shumsky, Robert A. and Debo, Laurens and Lebeaux, Rebecca and Nguyen, Quang and Hoen, Anne, Retail Store Customer Flow and COVID-19 Transmission (December 23, 2020). Retail store customer flow and COVID-19 transmission Robert A. Shumsky, Laurens Debo, Rebecca M. Lebeaux, Quang P. Nguyen, Anne G. Hoen Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Mar 2021, 118 (11) e2019225118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2019225118, Tuck School of Business Working Paper No. 3689364, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3689364 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3689364

Robert A. Shumsky (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College - Tuck School of Business ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Laurens Debo

Dartmouth College - Tuck School of Business ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Rebecca Lebeaux

Department of Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine ( email )

1 Rope Ferry Road
Hanover, NH 03755-1404
United States

Quang Nguyen

Department of Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine ( email )

1 Rope Ferry Road
Hanover, NH 03755-1404
United States

Anne Hoen

Department of Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine ( email )

1 Rope Ferry Road
Hanover, NH 03755-1404
United States

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