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Closing, reopening and closing: how retailers can weather the pandemic

Industry Trends | By | 27 Aug 2020 | 4 minute read

Shopping is important for many after lockdown; after all, it makes a significant contribution to our sense of community. COVID-19 has made both shoppers and retailers understandably cautious as we head towards a new way of purchasing and browsing in-store.

With rapid store closures and tentative re-opens, a focus on hygiene is paramount as retailers battle to stay afloat and thrive during the pandemic.

COVID-19 rocks the high street

Out of all the industries that were affected drastically by the pandemic; retail has taken a huge hit. Australia’s retailers have suffered the worst quarter in two decades, and the slump in sales looks set to continue, especially with local outbreaks in Australian states like Victoria.

The US and UK retail markets are similar. In the UK, although retail sales are recovering, it is the high street that has been affected, as 40% of sales were conducted online. A further 40% drop in footfall across retail stores have left many wondering whether they can keep safe and stay trading in these uncertain times.

In the US, 43 retailers have filed for bankruptcy so far, bringing a sense of trepidation to some retailers.

Unexpected store closures

As local lockdowns were introduced, closures came at a moment’s notice. Some are forced, in the case of complete government mandated shutdowns (like Greater Manchester in the UK), or from local outbreaks, like the outbreak at a dessert factory who serve retailers such as Waitrose and Tesco.

We’re even seeing COVID-19 marshals patrolling some of the densest population and shopping spaces in order to keep people safe.

Closures can come at a moments notice, so fast responses are critical. And the only way we can mitigate any disruption is to make sure we prepare, and are always alert to any potential risk.

Some closures can be prevented, or at least minimized, as is the case for retailers who’ve had to shut down because a staff member attended work with symptoms. It’s important to stay on hand to communicate reopening times to customers, so you can maximize any sales opportunities.

When it comes to re-opening your store after a closure, there are a number of measures and actions you can take to make everyone feel comfortable, secure and ultimately, excited to shop with you once more.

We explore what you can do to keep your employees and customers safe and how you can prevent closures from happening by placing safety as your #1 priority.

Minimizing the risk of closure for your retail shop

It’s more important than ever to support shoppers through being extra helpful. 

At every touchpoint within your store, customers need to know exactly what to do, and to also be reassured that they are safe.

Social distancing measures and floor/in store guides

By communicating a flow of footfall traffic around the store with floor stickers, you can easily show customers to adhere to distancing rules, minimizing the risk that staff will contract the virus from customers and keeping community spread at bay. Perhaps these graphics have been created in a rush, so why not remake them to look more striking or on brand?

COVID cleaning checklists

By using one or more COVID-19 cleaning templates, every member can access this template on the shop floor via their mobile phone. They can assign actions to members of staff, report if something isn’t sanitized properly, and make sure measures are enforced. Even if COVID-19 presents itself, a frequent and regular approach to cleaning means that the virus is stamped out before it affects people.

Visitor log and health check which becomes their basis for contact tracing

On entry to your store, your customers will feel safer if they know you’re doing all you can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. You could even make it fun by entering visitor logs into a monthly prize draw.

Vigilant greetings

To ensure safety of your staff and customers, temperature checks can be used by the security or a dedicated staff member at the entry of your shop using a contactless thermometer. This is a trusted way to ensure no one with a fever enters the building. Staff can use this opportunity to balance safety with personal service; personalized greetings and offering hand sanitizer upon entry shows your customers that you care about their experience and their safety.

Make everyone in your organization accountable for mitigating risk

Making certain hygiene tasks mandatory for everyone means that there is no longer a compliance officer looking to keep standards high. Everyone becomes a representative for cleanliness in your store. Empower your staff to take on responsibility when something doesn’t look right: whether that’s an empty hand sanitizer machine or missing floor markers. By democratizing safety, all levels of employees are trusted to fix an issue on the spot and escalate to the right people.

Simple, easy to use digital lists mean they can publicly accessible so customers know procedures

With digital checklists, everything becomes trackable, accessible, and most importantly, hygienic. Online checklists can also become publicly accessible, meaning that customers can see checks you’ve conducted in store and feel comfortable about the measures you’re putting in place.

Luxottica, an optician with over 430 retail outlets says checklists have been invaluable during the pandemic:

“We created new checklists specifically for COVID-19, one daily and one weekly,” says Carl. “Each store has a safety champion for the day, observing and making sure standards are being executed daily.”

Rebuilding customer trust

It’s not always possible to rebuild customer trust quickly after a closure, but we can put measures in place to make sure safety is key. 

Here are some trusted checklists used by retailers around the world as they navigate closing and reopening their stores:

Want to see how iAuditor can play a role in your COVID-19 operations? Check out our COVID-19 Response Hub and access thousands of COVID-19 checklists, resources, and ebooks

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