RETAILERS ADOPT SOCIAL DISTANCING AS THEY SEEK TO ASSURE CUSTOMERS TO SHOP WITH CONFIDENCE
LONG queues of shoppers snaked around stores in England on Monday (15), as shops reopened their doors after 83 days of lockdown.
Stores look different from before the lockdown, though, as they must observe social distancing regulations, implemented using guidance from the Health and Safety Executive. As well as having to queue outside as numbers inside are restricted, shoppers are greeted with hand sanitisers and there are limits on touching and trying out products.
Self-checkouts, trolleys and staff handheld devices are subject to frequent cleaning measures as shops seek to stop the virus infection from spreading.
Businesses which employ more than 50 employees are required to publish findings of their risk assessment on their website after consultations with staff and union representatives.
And in order to help those with visual impairments or disabilities, employers should also provide regular reminders and signage to maintain hygiene standards in their premises.
Midlands businessman Surinder Josan owns two family-run businesses in Smethwick – hardware store All Seasons DIY, started by his parents, and Seasons Palace, a banqueting venue for weddings and parties. The latter was shut as the pandemic struck and Josan persuaded customers to move their bookings at the 200-person venue to 2021.
While Josan initially closed the shop, he put notices up telling customers if they needed hardware items for repairs or urgent work, the store would help. However, as demand from customers grew, Josan said, “It also dawned on us that hardware stores were allowed to remain open, so we thought: ‘If we’re going to do this, we will have to do it properly.’”
So they put in place measures in place to keep both staff and customers safe.
Josan, 55, said, “We moved all the plants we usually have outside into the back garden to stop people crowding around them. We put lines outside the shop. We also barricaded the area by the till, so customers come in one by one, tell us what they want, then we go and get it. We reduced the contactless payments minimum from £5 to £1 to make it easier for people to limit contact. We also started cleaning the money using wipes.”
He added, “It was hard work – we were constantly going backwards and forwards – I think I did 17,000 steps in one day and that was just in the shop. It was so tiring we also cut down our hours so instead of opening from 9am to 7pm we opened from 10am to 4.30pm.
“The number of customers who have come in and complimented us for it is unbelievable. They say when they come here they feel really safe. We did it because we wanted to be safe, but it works for everyone.”
As businesses welcome customers and seek to assure them to become confident while shopping, Josan said it could be confusing for some. However, he noted there was information available, both from the government and other organisations, to help businesses adopt the right moves in place to keep themselves, their staff and their customers safe.
He said, “This is a new normal – we’re not going to go back to what we had for some time yet. There are still so many unknowns. At the end of the day, this virus is going to take out people who are close to us. It isn’t just good enough to think of our businesses and economy.”
With the banqueting venue, however, Josan said the future is less clear. In the meantime, he plans to offer the space to a local school free of charge if they need more room in order to welcome children back.
*For details on safer workplaces guidance, visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
*The government has published Covid-19 secure guidance to support businesses to reopen and for workers to feel confident, safe and empowered to return to work.
If you run a business and would like to know which of the coronavirus support schemes you are eligible for, you can use the business support finder tool https://www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder It takes just minutes to complete and will help you easily find support for your business.
(Produced in association with UK Government)