Not opened your retail space yet? Here is some help if you are now planning to open

Essential retail has been allowed to stay open during the coronavirus lockdown. These shops include supermarkets, off licences, pharmacies, hardware and cycle stores. As from June 15th non-essential retail was allowed to open. The Government has put into place a comprehensive guidance and support area on their website to ensure you can open safely and reduce the spread of coronavirus, these are for both essential and non-essential retailers. Below is a guide to what you need to take into account when planning to re-open your retail space.

Coronavirus risk assessment for shops

All businesses need to make sure they complete a risk assessment. The government says that if you have fewer than five employees, you don’t need to write one down. If you have staff, part of your risk assessment will involve speaking to them and addressing any concerns about safety.

The government lists sensible measures to minimise the risks of coronavirus in your shop. These include:

  • increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning
  • keeping working from home available as the first option
  • considering whether some activities are necessary for the business to operate, if social distancing can’t be followed
  • taking all actions necessary to mitigate risk, like using screens or barriers
  • reducing the number of people each person works with (you could set up fixed teams)

Ensure your employees are aware of the results of your risk assessment, either verbally (fewer than five employees) or make it available for them to read.

Should my staff come to work?

The government says nobody should be at work if your shop is shut under the government regulations. If your shop’s open, anybody who can work from home should. This might include back of house workers. Essentially, it’s about making sure you have the minimum number of people needed onsite to operate effectively.
If you have some employees at work and others at home, it’s important to make sure those at home still feel connected to your business and other employees.

Take all the precautions necessary to protect vulnerable people. Extremely vulnerable people have been strongly advised to stay at home, while vulnerable people need to work at home where possible. If they can’t, then conditions need to be as safe as possible for them onsite.

People who are self-isolating because they have coronavirus symptoms (or someone they live with has coronavirus symptoms) shouldn’t physically go into work – but they could still work from home.

Protecting your customers and other people who visit your shop

The government’s objective is to minimise contact resulting from visits to shops or retail outlets. They list a number of things you can do to help:

  • calculate the number of customers you can have in your shop (and any outside selling areas) following the recommended two metre social distancing rule (or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable, is acceptable)
  • limit how many customers you have in your store, especially in congested areas
  • encourage customers to use hand sanitiser when they enter your store to reduce the risk of transmission by touching products while browsing
  • ask customers to avoid handling products while browsing
  • rethink services that can’t be offered without breaking social distancing guidance
  • encourage customers to shop alone, unless they need specific assistance
  • remind customers that they’re responsible for making sure children are following social distancing guidelines
  • look at your shop’s layout to see if there’s a way you can adjust the flow of customers to reduce congestion and contact (for example, queue management and one-way flow)
  • make sure changes to entries, exits and queues also accommodate disabled shoppers and anyone else who needs adjustments
  • work with your neighbouring shops and your local authority to provide additional parking or facilities such as bike racks, where possible, to help customers avoid using public transport
  • use your car park or pavement directly outside your shop for queuing
  • manage outside queues to ensure they do not cause a risk to individuals and other businesses, for example by introducing queuing systems, having staff direct customers and protecting queues from traffic by routing them behind permanent physical structures such as street furniture, bike racks, bollards or putting up barriers
  • work with your local authority or landlord to minimise impact on public spaces that are shared with other local businesses
  • shopping centres should take responsibility for managing the number of customers in the centre and the queuing process in communal areas on behalf of their retail outlets
  • make sure staff apply social distancing when giving assistance
  • work with local businesses to see if you can stagger opening hours, limiting the number of people in the area at one time

Giving your customers guidance when they come to your shop

Make sure you and your staff let your customers know about the latest guidelines and what they need to do to stick to them. You can do this through signage and visual aids, as well as verbally. Think about people who are hard of hearing or visually impaired (or have other disabilities).

Hygiene guidance for shops

If you’re currently closed but are due to reopen, you need to assess your shop to make sure it’s ready. This will usually involve checking your cleaning procedures (including providing hand sanitiser).

The government specifically mentions looking at your ventilation system to make sure it doesn’t automatically lower ventilation, because of a lower-than-normal number of customers in your shop.

When you’re open, be sure to clean frequently, paying special attention to objects that people touch, including self-checkouts, baskets, trolleys, card readers, and coffee machines.

Staff work areas should be clean at the end of shifts, disposing of waste and clearing belongings. You can find specific guidance if you’re cleaning after a known or suspected case of coronavirus here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings

Hygiene for your staff

If you have staff it’s important to encourage proper hygiene, including frequent hand washing, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue. You can do this through posters and signs. Ensure you have equipped all wash rooms with appropriate hand washing facilities, also put hand sanitiser in locations throughout the staff work areas.

Social distancing needs to be enforced in toilets, as well as regular cleaning. Busy areas should be regularly cleaned, with more waste disposal facilities and frequent rubbish collection. Limit how many people can access these areas at any one time.

Guidance for handling goods and merchandise

The ability to handle goods and merchandise should be limited, as well as the ability to pass goods hand-to-hand. You can do this by using different display methods and introducing pick-up and drop-off points.

If people are returning items, you can put  no-contact return policy in place and use contactless card machines for refunds.

If items have been handled extensively, they should be kept in a separate room for 72 hours before they go back to the shop.

Avoid where possible cash transactions.

Should you insist on face coverings?

Face coverings for both you and your customers are optional and not enforced by law. If you and your staff choose to wear one, you should use them safely (by washing your hands for 20 seconds before putting one on and after taking one off, for example). Face masks, if worn, should cover both the nose and mouth.

Managing your employees

It’s important to pay extra attention to workforce management, if you have employees. This might involve coordinating shift work, minimising unnecessary travel to and from the workplace, and keeping a close eye on deliveries to make sure that social distancing is taking place.

Ongoing communication is key here – employees need to understand all the coronavirus-secure measures and preventions you’ve put in place. Talk to your staff about the importance of mental health and wellbeing in uncertain times. Ensure your staff are aware of all coronavirus symptoms and what they should do if experiencing any of these.

This article is a guide to help you start preparations for re-opening your retail space, you can get all of the latest regulations and updates by visiting: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus