Retail
in the time of coronavirus

In this four part guide we look at how consumer behavior has changed, how stores need to adapt to those changes, the role technology can play, and how payments will play a part in helping businesses move forward.

Chapter 3
Taking care of your most valuable assets

Happy, healthy, helpful staff members are the foundation of any successful brick and mortar retail store, but they’re also some of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Across the world, challenges around people distribution, staff protection, and point of sale are being met with a wave of creative thinking and innovative action. From smart rostering and shared labor models to virtual store assistants and contactless payments, employers need a plan that ensures the safety of staff while keeping the business running smoothly.

Follow local regulations

To ensure your store is able to open, and stay open, you’ll need to follow the latest government-mandated retail employer regulations and safety measures. Requirements will vary between countries, states, and cities, so be sure to check which rules apply according to your store locations. If in doubt, consider consulting with an employment law advisor that any new COVID-19-related practices follow wage and hour laws. 

One size won’t fit all

Once you know what rules and regulations apply, it’s time to consider how each of your staff members can best work within the new parameters. You’ll need to stay flexible and empathetic while sticking to the rules. Check if any of your staff have special needs or concerns, such as a respiratory condition, and make a plan to ensure they stay safe. Other considerations could include:

Allocating sufficient time between shifts for staff members to properly disinfect their areas before another staff member starts.

Finding out how your team members intend to travel to work, and opening for shorter hours so that staff can avoid public transport at rush hour. 

Organising a smart roster so that the same groups of staff can work together as much as possible to reduce exposure. 

Creating work zones and assigning one staff member to each zone to limit interactions with one other.

Finding people in a pinch

You may have to completely rethink your company’s approach to hiring and staff distribution. While some stores were forced to send employees home when the pandemic hit, other retailers had to look in unexpected places to find new staff in a pinch. In Germany, Aldi took on staff from McDonalds. In China, Hema grocery stores have started a talent sharing program, hiring from more than 40 restaurants, hotels and cinema chains which were temporarily shut down. Collaboration within or across industries may provide unexpected solutions to your staffing challenges.

Distanced but not in the dark

Beyond setting up a crisis communications plan, you should ensure all members of your staff are regularly trained on the latest health and safety requirements in order to keep themselves, their colleagues, and their customers protected. Share any relevant information about new measures with staff prior to their first day back, and keep up regular communications every week. Here are some measures your team can follow, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

 

  • Limit close contact with others and keep a distance of at least 1.5m when possible. Remind customers to do the same.
  • If having symptoms such as a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, notify a supervisor and stay home. Follow local quarantine procedures if necessary. 
  • Encourage customers to use touchless payment options. Minimize the handling of cash, credit cards, reward cards, and mobile devices.
  • Frequently sanitize surfaces such as checkout stations, payment terminals, work stations, door handles, tables, and countertops on a routine basis.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol as a temporary measure.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth as much as possible. 

Connecting staff and customers in new ways

If your staff can’t serve customers the way they normally would, think about how they can build bonds with customers in new ways. Brompton Bikes launched Brompton Live In-Store Expert, a browser based live video call service, powered by the Go Instore video first platform, which connects customers directly to Brompton’s experienced in-store staff to demonstrate products and give personal, tailored advice to each customer, recommending the right products to suit their needs.

“This has been successful so far with positive feedback from consumers using the service.”

Christina Lindquist ∙ Head of Marketing, Brompton Bikes

Knowledgeable, personable, expert staff are the lifeblood of a thriving retail business. And now, they’re more important than ever. Show your appreciation by making this difficult situation as stress-free as possible for them and make every effort to keep them in employment by using technology to help them do what they do best — sell your product.

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