At long last, non-essential stores can finally re-open across the UK. On one hand, this is great news: open doors mean more customers, and customers bring much needed income.
But on the other hand, safety is still a massive hurdle to clear.
While you’ll no doubt be keen to get back behind the till, here’s what you need to do to minimise the risk of coronavirus in your store.
Firstly, remember social distancing applies to everyone
As it stands, the UK government still recommends we stay at least two metres away from anyone who isn’t part of our household — and, unless you’re a family business, that means colleagues, too.
You may need to reconsider shift patterns and store layouts, to make it possible for customers and employees to maintain a 2 metre gap. But your hard work should pay off, keeping that all-important R rate well below 1.
Ask your customers to respect distancing measures
Even with the best of intentions, though, some people may forget. So place friendly reminders around your store — near the till, by the shelves, on the door as people walk in — and invest in additional cues to keep a healthy, and reassuring, sense of space.
Two-metre markers on the floor are particularly helpful — you’d be surprised how few people really know what two metres looks like! — and, if you’ve got the budget, having a staff member to manage the queue is a helpful addition as well.
Stores of all sizes can also benefit from limiting how many customers are allowed in at one time. Crowd control gives shoppers more space to walk around, while making it far easier for you and your team to implement social distancing the best you can.
Avoid all unnecessary contact
One day, we’ll have the green light to browse again. But, for now, it’s safer to encourage quick, contactless shopping trips, where customers pick up as few items as possible before checking out.
Take a moment to consider all the contact hotspots in your store. Chances are, lots of customers will touch door handles and shopping baskets. They may also be used to paying in cash at your till.
But these unprecedented times call for new ways of working, so politely ask customers to pay by card wherever possible, and consider leaving doors open for contactless entry and exit. If your store requires a certain level of physical interaction — if you sell groceries, and customers want to assess an avocado’s ripeness, for example — then provide plastic gloves for shoppers to wear.
Clean as regularly as you can
Cleanliness is crucial to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but how do you apply that to your business?
In a nutshell, every frequently touched surface within your store should be cleaned as much as possible. Trolleys, baskets, card machines, checkout tills, fridge handles — you name it, it all needs disinfecting.
Of course, there’s a practicality to this, and no one is expecting you to clean absolutely everything in your store the very moment it’s been touched — that’ll chase customers away! But having a clear and focused system in place is a must.
Making sure, for example, that key ‘carriers’ like trolleys, baskets and card machines are cleaned after every use is one way of streamlining your cleaning schedule.
And in terms of what you should use, the government has outlined that ‘usual cleaning products’ will do the job, so don’t worry about finding any specific brands or formulas.
That said, bleach and alcohol-based solutions (which are in most household disinfectants, as it is) have been proven to break down the virus most effectively.
Remind people of general health habits
If there was ever a time to cough into our hands, it’s now. Encouraging staff and customers to adhere to respectful health habits will help prevent the spread of coronavirus within your business.
Strategically placed posters at checkout points and in product aisles can remind people to always cover their mouths when they cough, sneeze into a tissue, and frequently wash or sanitise their hands. A friendly reminder goes a long way, while showing how seriously you’re taking customer safety.
Politely asking your staff to follow these rules, too, is also a good way of encouraging customers to follow… which brings us onto our next point.
Get your staff to lead the way!
It’s all well and good asking your customers to behave in a certain way, but sometimes you need to create a ‘culture’ that makes this behaviour as implicit and automatic as it can be — and that’s where your staff come in.
By making sure that your staff are following all the necessary rules, your customers are more likely to follow suit. It’s a simple, and quite obvious, principle of ‘herd mentality’ that you could really use to your advantage when trying to keep your store COVID free.
From keeping a 2m distance at all times to openly sanitising their hands, the cleanliness and behaviour of your staff will act as an indirect cue; encouraging the same respect and consideration from your customers.
So, be clear with your team about how they should behave, and make sure that they’ve got everything they need (PPE, hand sanitiser, tissue) to lead by example.
And finally, provide hand sanitiser in your store
We touched on this above, but making hand sanitiser available to both your workforce and customer base is arguably the best way of keeping your store safe from COVID-19.
If your customers and staff are able to quickly clean their hands on-the-go, you’ll be stopping any dangerous bacteria right in its tracks — we can’t always wash our hands with soap and water, after all.
And what’s more, offering hand sanitiser is a great way of showing how seriously you’re taking the fight against the coronavirus. It’s a glowing recommendation for the health and safety of your business, while boosting your reputation, too.
If you’re looking to protect your business with NHS-quality, WHO-approved hand sanitiser, head over to our product page for more information on how we can help.