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Retailers Measures to Protect Employees and Maintain Steady Customer Flow

While the coronavirus massively spread across various regions globally, the main focus for retailers is to limit the pandemic’s impact on both the employees and customers. As essential service providers, you are forced to adopt new guidelines and protective protocols according to local and state directives. In most regions around the world, the retail sector is an already troubled category due to declining consumer demand and competition from online stores. Here are various tips that you can use to mitigate Covid 19 risks, protect your employees and customers, and maintain a stable income during the pandemic.

Provide Proper Protective Gear

The coming months and weeks will be very challenging for everyone, and employees’ safety is a vital priority for any retailer. Note that retailers are in high consumer volume environments, and they may need PPE to protect themselves while on duty. You may need to provide your employees with face shields, gloves, disposable raincoats or rain boots, and masks. As an employer, you need to consider whether the risk assessment warrants the use of these PPE. For instance, your workers will need gloves for personal protection when cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. With the undeniable shortage of protective gear, you can still provide them with vests written: “keep your distance.” You can also install plexiglass shields at the cashier desk to prevent contact. Additionally, remember to offer your workers enough and properly laundered uniforms to change between each shift.

Effectively Communicate with Employees, Customers, and Suppliers

You need to keep your communication right to protect your workforce and clients from misinformation and confusion. Note that your workers will need reassurance from you that they are well protected and that the firm is well prepared. Effectively hold discussions with them and prove that their health is paramount. Use social media to send updates to your workers and customers, informing them of the steps you are taking to limit the coronavirus’ spread in your enterprise. Provide clear guidelines on how your workers should interact with employees. Let your employees familiarize themselves with the daily operations to share the right information with the clients. Also, educate your clients and employees on the appropriate measures they need to take to protect themselves and others. Please send emails to your clients and use fliers to remind them to shop alone and keep their distance.

Limit Handling of Products and cash

Alongside washing hands and sanitization, you need to implement contactless payments and refunds. You can introduce new signage or rotation of high touch stock to limit customers handling of merchandise. Also, set up a “no contact return procedure” where customers places returned goods in a designated area, separate from displayed merchandise to limit transmission through touch. Consider placing protective materials on items that require testing before purchase and ensure frequent cleaning of the covers. Also, offer a curb-side pick-up option to minimize contact, and provide guidelines on how workers will help customers handle heavier items during delivery. Clean touchpoints after customers pick up items and wash up the returned items before displaying them on the shelves. Also, encourage cashless payments and refund options.

Limit Store Hours

As much as you want always to supply your customers with essential products and keep your business afloat during this difficult time, you need to limit store hours. Create time to sanitize the store thoroughly and also restock fast-moving items. Come up with new closing and opening times and share it with your customers and employees. You can also set aside special hours to accommodate the most vulnerable groups, the old and those with underlying conditions, to allow them to shop with minimal risks. Introduce stagger shifts and adjust your employees’ schedules throughout the day to reduce the number of people in your store. Plan to sanitize the store between work periods to limit spread risks if any employee gets exposed to the virus. You then need to post clear information so that your customers know when to visit the store during off-peak hours.

Hire Temporary Employees for Extra Help

Most retailer stores are working overboard to provide essential items. Therefore, it’s becoming challenging to balance both well-stocked shelves and employees’ and clients’ safety. Some retailers are also experiencing high demand around the clock, making it hard to set time for vital safety procedures. It’s time to focus on simplifying and reducing workloads by hiring extra employees to assist you temporarily. It will help you divide tasks during peak hours, especially when cleaning and disinfecting the stores. Look for people who are out of work, for instance, those who got laid off from the hospitality sector or other nonessential enterprises. By hiring more people, you will be able to serve all your clients’ needs adequately, and better balance your shifts and workload.

Integrate New Technology

Technology has become a vital tool to help implement preventive measures in shops to curb the coronavirus spread. Determining the number of customers allowed in a store and at the same time, maintaining social distance may be a challenge. New tech has made it easier to track the number of customers for active social distancing and reduce checkout times. Previously most firms used cameras for security purposes. You can now alert clients when they are too close to each other, mainly in high stoppage areas like entrances and service counters. You can also implement the mobile self-checkout technology to keep shoppers off the line during busy periods. Technology will help retailers achieve real-time preventive measures at a low cost and, at the same time, make clients and employees feel protected.

Update your Sick Leave Policies

Employees’ health is vital to help you maintain high productivity and excellent customer experience. Therefore, you should modify your sick leave policy to accommodate any COVID 19 emergencies, if any of your workers need to stay at home. Create emergency leave and time off plans for any employees who show any signs of illness. By coming up with such strategies, you make them feel safe, and they don’t have to worry about layoffs or reduced paycheck. Other employees will also feel secure since there will be minimal risks of infections. Once they have recovered, you can ask them to take up a test from a licensed health care provider.

Ramp up your Hygiene

Ensure that you offer training and relevant information to all employees and suppliers to maintain standard personal protection measures. Come up with a routine to clean every object and surface efficiently with disinfectant. Concentrate on the frequently touched areas like keyboards, light switches, credit card pin pads, conveyor belts, and phones. It would help if you also disinfected the shopping carts handles as well and provide sanitizers or antibacterial wipes to all clients at the point of entry. Also, set aside a hand washing station for employees and customers to frequently wash their hands with soap and warm water. You can restructure some areas in the store that may be prone to contamination, such as the demo and sampling areas.

Conclusion

During these difficult times, all retailers must implement the necessary public health measures. You also need to adjust your operations to mitigate the risks and reduce the spread of the virus among customers and employees. The above guideline outlines clear steps that you can implement to protect the health and safety of your clients and employees at your store. As an employer, you need to remain alert on the virus’s changing outbreak conditions and implement the evolving virus containment measures to prevent exposure.

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By Georg Tichy

Georg Tichy is a management consultant in Europe, focusing on top-management consultancy, projectmanagement, corporate reporting and fundingsupport. Dr. Georg Tichy is also trainer, lecturer at university and advisor on current economic issues.

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