It was good news for the retail sector when the government announced non-essential businesses in England could reopen again on 15th June. After three months of COVID-19 lockdown, when only shops deemed essential such as food stores and pharmacies could trade, the news couldn't have come too soon.
Now the challenge for the high streets is determining how to bring in a new form of normality to help people continue with their shopping, while remaining safe from the coronavirus. Explaining the new shopping rules to customers is something every retailer should be doing.
© Michele Ursi / Adobe Stock
With limited numbers being allowed in each shop, businesses must make arrangements for the queues which are inevitably forming outside. Queuing should always be done outside the shop, or in a car park - never inside the premises.
The retailer must manage the queues to minimise the risks and ensure social distancing is maintained. This enables traders to use their shopfront to the best advantage, while people are waiting to come inside: as well as displaying the safety rules, promotions and new products can also be advertised in an eye-catching way. After all, you have a captive audience in the queue - a group of people who aren't simply passing-by - there's no better time to wow them with your great deals!
Before customers enter the premises, the retailer must publicise the new rules and safety measures using signs, posters and visual aids, such as diagrams and graphics, on their shop windows and doors. This gives customers plenty of advance warning before they go into the store, so they know how to behave.
One-way systems and barriers will help avoid customers clustering together – in a similar way that supermarkets and other essential retailers have been operating over the past three months, since the lockdown began.
Shoppers should be encouraged to pay using cashless methods when possible.
Many retailers are providing sanitising stations for people as they enter, asking customers to cleanse their hands on entering the store. Staff must wash their hands more frequently and the shop's surfaces must be cleaned more often throughout the day with a detergent.
Particular attention should be paid to areas that are touched more often such as handrails, lift buttons, doorknobs, employees' hand-held scanning devices, trolleys, baskets and facilities in staff areas, such as coffee machines.
Shops should install screens and barriers to protect staff and customers wherever necessary. Notices must be put in place advising customers to touch only items that they intend to buy, rather than browsing and picking things up, before putting them back on the shelf.
Automatic door solution
To control the number of people that enter the building at any one time, the FlowControl system
automatically integrates with an automatic door to effectively enable social distancing - no one need touch anything!
This new product was introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been highly effective in Europe for some time.
Many stores operate a policy whereby only one person per household is permitted to enter at any one time, unless they're a parent with young children or a carer who is escorting the person they are looking after.
Staff should be deployed outside to look for groups of people in the queue and ask if it's necessary for them to all enter the store together. This policy has been operated by supermarkets and must be adopted by other retailers. Shopping centres will also have to regulate the number of shoppers allowed in, as well as managing queuing at individual stores.
Any shop which has five employees or more must complete a written risk assessment, with details of its plans to keep customers and staff safe.
In the case of clothes shops, they must close the fitting rooms, so customers won't be able to try on clothes. A number of stores have amended their returns policy accordingly, giving people a longer period of time to return unwanted goods.
Although returned goods can be accepted, the retailer must store them away from sale for 72 hours before they can be put out on the shop floor again. The store should provide a designated area where employees can speak to customers requiring assistance, while maintaining social distancing measures.
With all the new safety measures put in place, signage to advise customers is increasingly important, as is having well-trained employees who know the rules and how to operate them.
Any business that doesn't provide enough information for customers, or who breaks the rules, can be hit with a hefty fine, or even be closed down by the local authority if they persistently flout the law.
A warm and informed welcome
Make sure your customers are well-informed by having a high-quality shopfront entrance, which displays the relevant signage of the regulations.
Commercial Aluminium Shopfronts provides quality entrances including glass shopfronts, aluminium doors, glazed shopfronts, curtain walling systems and more.
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