Retailers join forces for shopping safety message

In preparation for the reopening of shops across the UK today, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and 25 leading retailers have launched five simple steps to encourage considerate shopping.

The retailers are urging the public to play their part in creating a safe retail environment for other customers and retail staff – suggesting that shoppers:

• Queue considerately.
• Maintain social distancing.
• Follow instructions inside and outside shops.
• Follow all necessary hygiene measures.
• Be respectful to shop staff.

The reopening of non-essential shops marks a crucial time for thousands of retailers and hundreds of thousands of jobs. According to the Office for National Statistics retail sales figures, the Coronavirus lockdown has cost non-food retailers £1.7 billion per week during April and May.

BRC figures out today also showed that UK footfall decreased by 81.6 per cent in May – although this was a slightly shallower decline than that seen in April, as more categories of shops were able to reopen.

Retailers have been working hard to ensure their stores are prepared and safe for staff and customers and have implemented all the necessary social distancing measures, such as perspex screens at counters, signs and floor markings around the store, and new rotas and procedures for cleaning.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson commented: “Retailers have been working around the clock to create a safe shopping environment, so their customers can have the confidence to return to their favourite shops – our shopping experience may be changing, but if we all follow the necessary social distancing measures and show a little consideration to those around us, then everyone will be better off.”

Steve Rowe, chief executive at Marks & Spencers, said: “Customers can expect all the social distancing and hygiene measures they have seen in our foodhalls - from new signage and perspex screens at tills to hand sanitiser stations at the doors.”

HMV owner Doug Putman stated: “Our teams have been working on plans to reopen since the day we had to close our doors – we’ve redesigned our store layouts so that customers can make their way through the stores, buy what they want and pay seamlessly, while maintaining spaces for those who want to browse while maintaining social distancing.”

Berangere Michel, executive director for customer service at the John Lewis Partnership, added: "We are taking a gradual approach to reopening to make our shops as safe as they can possibly be for our customers and partners, however, we are confident we can still offer them a really enjoyable experience."

Research on Friday revealed that avoiding shopping at peak times and contactless payments were among the tactics consumers will be using to keep safe.

A survey of 2,000 consumers conducted by buy now, pay later provider Laybuy found that 46 per cent were preparing to avoid visiting high street shops at peak times as non-essential retailers reopen, while 40 per cent will insist upon contactless purchases.

When it came to government guidance, just over a third (34 per cent) said wearing a mask was a priority, behind taking hand sanitiser out with them (36 per cent) and avoiding spending more time shopping than necessary (38 per cent).

Another survey among 2,000 UK adults for Qualtrics found that almost half (44 per cent) of consumers do not yet feel comfortable about shopping in-store.

Nikki Baird, vice president of retail innovation at Aptos, responded to the reopening by pointing out that it will take a long time for retail sales to return to what they were pre-Coronavirus, and the structure of these sales will be very different.

“Many Chinese retailers have also noted that since reopening stores they have seen greater demand for contactless commerce – UK retailers should be taking note of these key learnings and making the necessary technological investments to ensure that they are in the best position to welcome customers back into stores.”

Rob Shaw, EMEA managing director at Fluent Commerce, commented that the last few months have shown the need for business flexibility.

“Many retailers are shackled by their processes, their structures and their technologies,” he said, urging companies to prioritise a single view of inventory; build scalability and reliability; and create infrastructure that's accessible and can adapt to change. “To paraphrase a quote from Charles Darwin, ‘the species that will survive is the one that will best adapt and adjust to the changing environment’.”

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