How In-Store Safety Measures Present An Opportunity For Retailers

By Nick Cockett, Chief Operating Officer at Cennox

If nothing else, the retail industry has proved itself hugely adaptable in recent months, displaying boundless innovation and ingenuity to overcome perhaps the biggest challenge the industry has faced for decades.

It has now been one month now or so since Boris Johnson told consumers they can ‘shop with confidence’, with non-essential stores given the green light to open their doors for the first time in months.

In most cases this involved a significant overhaul of the in-store environment to protect shoppers and staff and reduce the spread of infection. While supermarkets and other ‘essential’ stores have had more time to learn and adapt, the curve is somewhat steeper for others.

From one-way systems in aisles, Perspex dividers between tills to closing changing rooms, consumers visiting stores up and down the country have found things markedly different. And rightly so. But while the easing of restrictions in mid-June was all about re-starting the economy, safety still remains the number one priority for consumers.

Suddenly, the safety measures put in place became a crucial differentiator – which in itself presents a massive opportunity for savvy retailers. If shoppers are willing to shift from their usual choice to a different store that has adopted more stringent safety measures, then the pathway to success is a simple one to navigate; demonstrate you have market-leading safety solutions and shoppers will be more inclined to visit.

One example of this is at the Point of Sale, doubtless one of the most high-risk areas of the store. Shoppers have no choice but to congregate at checkouts and use the same payment terminals. But the over-reliance on chemical solutions used by staff to wipe down Chip & PIN devices and clean surfaces does little to stop infection when a dozen or more people could be using a checkout in a ten-minute period. In that sense, the potential for spread is increased. At its worst, this puts customers in a position where they believe they are being protected, when in fact they are anything but.

In the case of some of these high touch point areas, we can expect to see retailers turning to technology new and old to provide more reliable and effective solutions. For instance, Ultraviolet C light – a 40-year-old technology – is known to neutralise COVID-19 in a matter of seconds. Automated solutions negate human error, particularly when it comes to the thorough cleaning required to rid surfaces of COVID-19. Better still, moving away from wipes and gloves reduces the significant amount being sent to landfill sites. While it is just one example, it demonstrates how technology solutions provide a more thorough clean – and put shoppers more at ease.

Retailers that succeed in this ‘new normal’ will be those that give shoppers the confidence in store. Interestingly, the loyalty battleground, something retailers have fought so hard for in recent years, could now be won and lost on the safety measures they have in place.

Bosses must take a root and branch look at their stores and the solutions needed to properly maintain safety standards. Fortunately, we know the retail industry is filled with creativity, meaning the green shoots of recovery should thrive in this new environment.

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