Walking frames mobility scooters outside store fleetwood

As the government prepares to update the nation on whether coronavirus lockdown measures can be loosened or not this Sunday, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has published guidance to non-food retailers on how to operate a physical store with social distancing.

On the 23rd March, the government ordered the closure of all ‘non-essential’ leisure facilities and shops. In the mobility sector, many retailers faced the choice of closing until the end of the lockdown or remaining open and bringing in measures to ensure safe shopping for consumers.

One set of retailers that had to adapt quickly to the new reality of social distancing were supermarkets, implementing measures to try and ensure individuals could continue to shop for day-to-day essentials whilst also following the government’s rules on social distancing.

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Using the supermarket sector’s experience, the BRC has released several recommendations for retailers to consider in the event that stores are given the go-ahead to reopen.

“These are non-exhaustive and it is the responsibility of each business to decide the most appropriate methods to implement social distancing and other coronavirus control measures in their business,” states the BRC’s guidance.

“Over and above these specific recommendations there should be an open dialogue with colleagues to reassure them and discuss any concerns about the safety of their role.”

For outside a store

Pointing to the government’s advice regarding social distancing and the need for people to remain two metres apart, the BRC’s guidance for outside of stores suggests that retailers should limit the number of entry and exit points into and out of shops.

In addition, the number of customers allowed into a store at any one time should also be limited, detailing that companies should assess the size of the store and its layout to calculate the number of customers who can enter and adhere to the two-metre distance.

The BRC also recommends using a member of staff to meet customers before entering a store to explain the social distancing requirements and control the number of customers entering, suggesting that the worker may have to be SIA licensed.

Temporary barriers to prevent queue jumpers, clear social distancing signage outside the store and two-metre queue markers to inform people where to stand are also proposed, as well as the need to coordinate with nearby shops to manage shared queue areas. For those operating in shopping centres, the BRC suggests working with the centre’s management.

In addition, the guidance encourages retailers to schedule deliveries to avoid any potentially crowding in unloading and delivery areas, as well as looking into the opportunity of contactless stock deliveries.

For inside a store

Encouraging cleaning stations at the front of stores which include hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes and spray, the advice emphasises the importance of identifying and regularly cleaning key touchpoints such as door handles, products and keypads.

Importantly, the BRC advises companies to agree on policy between managers and staff regarding what steps to take in the event customers do not follow social distancing rules.

To achieve social distancing on a shop floor, the consortium suggests using floor markings to help customers remain two metres apart, as well as placing clear signage throughout to make the rules clear.

Again, companies are advised to review the layout of showrooms to ensure aisles and walkways are as a clear as possible to enable two-metre distancing, including removing promotional fixtures and displays if necessary.

One-way systems, regular social distancing reminders and physical barriers at till points using flexiplastic are also included in the guidance, as well as distancing or closing adjacent tills.

Leaving non-essential doors – excluding fire doors – open to facilitate ventilation is also advocated, as well as setting up customer collection points that are two metres apart as well.

Cashless purchases are also encouraged.

Unique challenges for some mobility retailers

For the mobility retailer sector, social distancing in stores may be difficult to execute, particularly for those operating in smaller high street stores where floor space is at a premium.

With many of the bigger ticket products such as mobility scooters requiring an element of assessment, maintaining a social distance may not possible as well.

For those retailing in the sector, careful thinking and planning of how to mitigate risks to staff and employees alike will be required, alongside a degree of creativity to think of solutions, such as using PPE for assessments.

Recently, the BBC reported on a draft government paper hinting at some of the ideas being considered by government to enable workplaces to open back up.

Read the full guidance.

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