The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has published guidance to support the reopening of stores, including social-distancing and hygiene measures.
On 23 March, the government stepped up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including the temporary closure of all business premises deemed non-essential.
It is not clear when the non-food retail sector will reopen for business and the final decision on this will be made by the government and public health experts.
However, the BRC has said: “We need to be ready and, as we start to prepare for the reopening of stores, it is likely that some virus control restrictions will continue to be necessary to limit transmission.”
In preparation for the reopening of a greater breadth of stores, the BRC has worked with shop worker trade union Usdaw to produce guidance on social distancing for non-food retail stores, drawing on government advice as well as the lessons learned by essential retailers in recent weeks.
Social distancing in and around stores
Some of the measures include limiting the number of entry and exit points into and out of the store, having separate entrance and exit points if possible, and limiting the number of customers in the store at any time.
Also, assess the size of the store and its layout. This will enable you to calculate the number of customers who can reasonably follow 2 metres’ social distancing. Use a colleague to meet customers, explain the social distancing requirements and control the number of customers entering the store at any one time. In some circumstances, that colleague may need to be SIA (Security Industry Authority) licensed.
Consider whether temporary barriers should be available in case it is necessary to stop people joining a queue, and place clear signage outside of the store explaining the social distancing measures in place that customers should follow.
Hygiene and cleaning
These measures include provision of cleaning stations at front of store such as: hand sanitiser, if available, and disinfectant wipes or spray and tissue for trolley/basket handles. Identify and regularly clean key touch points such as door handles, lift buttons, keypads, and stair/escalator hand rails.
Shop floor and till areas
Use floor markings inside to facilitate compliance with the social distancing advice of two metres, particularly in the most crowded areas and where queueing is likely.
Place clear signage throughout the store reminding customers of the social distancing measures and asking them to follow these rules, and review the layout of the store to ensure aisles/walkways are as clear as possible to accommodate two metres’ social distancing, including the removal of promotional fixtures if necessary.
Consider one-way systems using floor markings and signage to highlight system and direction and make regular announcements to remind staff and customers to follow social distancing advice.
Erect physical barriers at till points using flexiplastic to provide a barrier for those working on the tills. These should be included in store cleaning programmes.
If self-checkout touchscreens/keypads remain in operation, a member of staff must be available to regularly wipe these areas, ideally between each use.
Changing rooms, customer seating and special assistance
Some of the measures include considering keeping changing rooms closed. If this is not possible, you must have a colleague in place at all times to ensure social distancing is maintained.
Where customers require specialist advice or assistance in store, ensure colleagues giving the advice have a clearly designated position, ideally with a secure barrier as provided at till points. Remove or limit customer seating in store. If seating is provided, space it out appropriately.
If you provide in-store products for customers to trial prior to purchase – for example, TVs, headphones or computers – these must be set up to enable social distancing rules to be followed.
If stores choose not to assist customers with large purchases – for example, moving a 60” TV to their car – it is advisable to highlight this prior to purchase. If stores are providing this service they should provide suitable protection and advice for this to be conducted safely.
Other guidance on how to manage the workplace, and more general considerations, can be found here.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Retailers are closely following developments from government on when restrictions might be eased and are starting to plan accordingly. The safety and well-being of retail colleagues and customers remains the highest priority and these guidelines aim to support everyone in the industry.
“Since the lockdown, many retailers have proved how shops can be run safely and effectively in line with the government’s social distancing advice. This guidance is the product of retail’s incredible efforts to adapt to exceptional circumstances. The industry knows how to serve the public while protecting staff and customers alike.
“Continued close collaboration with government, including public support for the steps retailers are taking and adequate notice to get supply chains up and running will mean that retail businesses can start trading again slowly and safely, and customers can feel confident that they are safe to return to shops.”
Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, added: “Non-food retail should only start trading again when expert public health advice agrees. However, we need to be ready and we need to make sure that the proper preparations and measures are put in place.
“Usdaw and the BRC have been working to develop advice and guidance for the non-food retail sector on what effective safe distancing in the shops might look like.
“We would urge all high street retailers to study the joint advice and open a dialogue with Usdaw and the BRC on putting in place plans for adequate social distancing measures in their stores.”