Responding to the immediate needs of the retail sector

Dan Williams, founder and managing director at 100% Group

Over the past month, we’ve seen retailers reacting incredibly quickly to Covid-19 regulations and government advice to keep staff and customers safe in the store environment. Essential retail businesses have had to revise and redesign their physical premises to promote hygienic shopping practices and encourage social distancing to prevent further outbreaks, and as a result, the immediate needs of the retail sector and the supply chain serving it have changed dramatically.

According to the sector guidance on social distancing in the workplace during coronavirus, essential retail businesses must arrange;

  • Managed entry into the store, only allowing a limited number of people into the store at any given time.
  • Signage to ask customers with symptoms not to enter the store and remind both staff and customers to always keep two metres distance from other people, wherever possible.
  • Plexiglass barriers to be put up at all points of regular interaction, if feasible, to further reduce the risk of infection for all parties involve. These must be cleaned regularly.

Retailers should also be encouraging staff to wash their hands with soap and water as often as possible for 20 seconds every time and advise staff to keep two metres apart as much as possible.

As a result of this guidance, the trade companies responsible for the design and manufacture of crucial items, like directional signage and sneeze shields, also have to react incredibly quickly. Not only will they have to increase their production but also decrease the times in which they’re able to turn these items around. And while most supermarkets have now had these installed, demand for these items is unlikely to fall anytime soon. We have already seen different types of essential stores begin to reopen in certain ways, such as hardware retailers which were deemed as essential by the government. In their latest announcement, the government has allowed the reopening of non-essential stores from June onwards.

We’ve also seen a rise in omnichannel retailers offering contactless order fulfilment, allowing shoppers to pick up their items or receive roadside delivery. We expect to see a continued rise in click and collect methods of purchasing as retailers and shoppers continue to adapt to social distancing measures.

While it’s uncertain just how long stringent social distancing measures need to be followed, it’s likely that they’ll become ‘the new normal’ in retail and need to be in place for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it’s important for these protective items and signage to be robust and durable to stand the test of time. In order to focus wholly on production and feel rest assured once their products leave site, it’s important that trade companies to make considered arrangements for installation. Of course, staff and customer safety and comes first, and Covid-19 regulations must be adhered to, but it’s important to not to forget about other vital guidelines in the need for speed. Prior to any installation, risk assessments, permit requests and all the necessary checks still need to be carried out. It’s vital that trade companies can rely on an installation partner that can take care of these and demonstrate proactivity in keeping up to date with the latest guidance.

These measures are likely to be just the start of the way retail behaves in the UK. However, amongst all the chaos, it’s been positive and encouraging to see the way that the retail sector has reacted – quickly, safely, and with customer and staff safety at the forefront. I’m confident we’ll continue to see more creative initiatives and support systems emerge for customers as retailers rise to the challenge.



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