The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) has issued guidance to mobility retailers amid growing confusion in the sector concerning whether mobility retailers can remain open to trade.

On the 23rd March, prime minister Boris Johnson announced the closure of ‘non-essential’ retail premises in an attempt to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and flatten the curve.

The announcement was followed by details published by the government outlining which retail businesses were exempt from the order to close, however, with the mobility retail sector not listed as exempt, it has led to many retailers in the sector being unsure if or how they should continue to trade.

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“We are battling on in these unprecedented times with a skeleton staff at our head office and distribution centre so we can carry on shipping orders and providing support to clients with technical difficulties,” explained Duncan Gillett, Managing Director of South East-based Clearwell Mobility.

“On the instructions issued by the government last Monday, we have closed all our retail premises. However, we are still getting a lot of calls from customers dismayed that they can’t access equipment and there are a significant number of customers being discharged from hospital due to the virus and we can’t support them with equipment.”

Speaking with THIIS, Sarah Lepak, Director of Governance & Policy for the BHTA, she aimed to provide clarity to mobility retailers regarding what retail activity is acceptable during the lockdown.

“Firstly, there is an important distinction between closing premises to the public and being ‘shut’. It is definitely essential that customers can access urgent repairs, particularly to equipment like stairlifts and this counts as health and care supply chain activity,” she explained.

“Businesses can continue to operate for this type of purpose. If customers need to buy equipment to keep someone safe at home or enable them to be safe following discharge from the hospital, then that would also be a valid activity.”

Importantly, mobility retailers should only allow customers on-site only as a last resort, she advised, emphasising that the purpose of the lockdown is to close premises to the public to stop the spread of transmission.

“Customers should only attend appointments at premises if there is no other way to support them in acquiring equipment – and if it is not urgent/essential, this should be postponed until restrictions are relaxed,” she continued.

“At the time of writing this, government guidance says that online sales (all sectors) should continue, and telephone orders qualify as ‘distance sales.’

“If equipment needing repair can be put outside, or a delivery left on the doorstep, then that arrangement should be made.”

In addition, the BHTA noted that to keep travel to a minimum, businesses should ideally deliver to customers and are free to use their vans.

“Staff should carry company identification (e.g. lanyard badge) if they can, proof of identity (driving licence or passport) and a letter from the business stating that they are a key worker and explaining what the business does (e.g. repairs of healthcare equipment) – that will assist if they are challenged,” recommended Sarah.

Many retailers have also questioned what is the correct course of action for products that need some form of assessment or measurement and require the retailer to come within a two-metre distance of a customer?

Sarah answered: “Regarding the two-metre rule, that has to be a judgement call based on the situation, however, the business can contact Public Health England (PHE) for advice on specific cases.”

Additionally, mobility retailers can still carry out essential work in the homes of customers as long as they adhere to government and PHE guidelines – covered here in detail.

She finished: “The lockdown measures do not mean that retailers cannot continue to serve customers who have an urgent need – they just have to go about it differently.”

*NB: The advice from the BHTA above is based on the current understanding of the government intention

https://i2.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/coronavirus-store-closed-retail-advice.jpg?fit=900%2C574&ssl=1https://i2.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/coronavirus-store-closed-retail-advice.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1Calvin BarnettBusiness SupportCoronavirus NewsCOVID-19 Trade NewsGovernment & Local AuthoritiesNewsroomRetailer NewsSector NewsTrade NewsBHTA,Boris Johnson,British Healthcare Trades Association,Clearwell Mobility,coronavirus,COVID-19,mobility retailers. mobility retail,Sarah lepak,working in-houseThe British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) has issued guidance to mobility retailers amid growing confusion in the sector concerning whether mobility retailers can remain open to trade.On the 23rd March, prime minister Boris Johnson announced the closure of ‘non-essential’ retail premises in an attempt to slow the transmission of...News, views & products for mobility, access and independent living professionals