Retail stores reopening: Is your staff safe?

The government has already announced that most non-essential retail shops will be authorised to open their doors from 15 June. Outdoor markets and car showrooms are already opened, as they have received the green light to restart business from 1 June in England. 

The news has been welcomed positively by the retail industry. While some have expressed disappointment about the extended delay compared to outdoor markets and car showrooms, retail shop managers can now use the time to prepare their business as best as possible for the reopening. The priority, when it comes to opening your doors to a broad audience, is your staff protection. People who supervise the shopping area or process payments will need additional measures of protection for both their mental and physical health. 

Maintain safe distance INSIDE the store

The future of your retail business depends on your ability to create an interior that is both safe and appealing. After a hiatus of several months, you will need to relaunch your business activities with a proverbial ‘bang’, if you want to recover some of your losses. Conforming to social distance guidelines and floor sticker designs, you can create a safe browsing zone for your customers. But, why not also use the planning requirements as an excuse to give your decor a fresh start? You can reduce displays to highlight your star items while promoting safe distancing inside the store, for instance. This will enable you to keep your presentation fresh, as you will need to update it regularly to replace sold items. 

Provide staff with the assistance they need

Health guidelines, however, are unlikely to be enough to provide the peace of mind your staff needs. Working in the retail industry during a pandemic is, understandably so, highly stressful. It can be a good idea to address the issue by adding an employee assistance programme that supports your team in all areas of life and work. You can click here to see how it can be done. Ultimately, providing your team with a scheme that can help them overcome personal issues such as post-lockdown anxiety can be a game-changer. It is fair to say that an employee assistance programme counsellor does not replace government guidelines for the safety of your staff in-store. But it can help with stress and fear. 

Invest in protective shields and equipment

Are a mask and a pair of gloves enough protection? 

The answer is no. Your team can’t work all day wearing a mask and rubber gloves. However, you can provide them with the equipment they need to stay safe on the job. Many shops have installed protective Perspex shields to cut down the risk of transmission when customers pay for their items. Additionally, assistants and helpers who are in contact with customers could wear protective equipment, such as a transparent face shield. Face shields are friendlier and more manageable than face masks for public-facing retail roles. They are also less likely to attract complaints from your staff – face masks can be highly uncomfortable and leave bruising around the nose, cheekbones, and ears. 

Reopening retail shops is a tricky situation that is going to act as a double-edged sword for businesses. On the one hand, it enables retail stores to reach out to their audience and boost sales. However, post-lockdown anxiety is likely to affect your team, as well as your customers. You can’t afford to ignore COVID-19 fear in your reopening strategy. Plan accordingly for the safety of all.