A retailers guide to meeting government social distancing guidelines

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The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced on Monday 25th May that non-essential retailers will be allowed to reopen their doors on 15th June and urged shoppers to go out and spend to help revive the British economy.

It’s great news for all of us as a sense of normality starts to return and on the face of it great news for the British high street and retailers operating in the UK.

However, normality as we knew it before isn’t the same as the ‘new normal’. Retailers are going to have to massively adapt and change the way they do things if they’re going to operate successfully, safely and effectively as we head into this ‘new normal’. Social distancing is going to be around for some time to come, that’s why we’ve developed our Social Responsibility Dashboard which allows businesses to easily monitor their compliance with government guidelines.

The UK government has provided guidelines for non-essential retailers which can be found here. The overall objective is ‘To minimise the contact resulting from visits to stores or outlets’.

We’ve outlined a few of the key guidelines below and what retailers can do to tackle these challenges.

Guidelines 1 & 2

Defining the number of customers that can reasonably follow 2m social distancing within the store and any outdoor selling areas. Take into account total floorspace as well as likely pinch points and busy areas.

Limiting the number of customers in the store, overall and in any particular congestion areas, for example doorways between outside and inside spaces.

What retailers can do

Retailers are going to need to know exactly how many customers and employees are in-store at any given time. Also, needing to take into account floor space, pinch points and busy areas is going to be difficult for staff to manage.

That’s where Purple can help. We’ve developed a Social Responsibility Dashboard which calculates a social density score based on the number of people inside the store and the total floor space.

The score is displayed with a red, amber or green rating and is easily understandable for employees. The information can also be made available to the public to reassure them that measures are in place and also so they know how busy the store is before they set off on their journey.

Our indoor location technology is also uniquely placed to allow retailers to identify pinch points and busy areas in-store.

Guideline 3

Encouraging customers to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter the premises to reduce the risk of transmission by touching products while browsing.

What retailers can do

It’s a given that hand sanitiser is likely to be at the entrance and dotted around most stores so we’ll offer some other advice that many retailers may not have thought of.

Retailers should proactively encourage customer feedback around the hygiene measures that they have in place.

Not only will this provide customers with the impression that you’re putting their health and safety at the heart of your operations, it will also provide you with vital data to calculate hygiene scores across all your stores.

Giving you an objective measure and allowing you to react quickly to maintain standards and protect customers and employees. Purple’s Social Responsibility Dashboard has in-built functionality which allows you to do this easily.  

Guideline 8

Looking at how people walk through the shop and how you could adjust this to reduce congestion and contact between customers, for example, queue management or one-way flow, where possible.

What retailers can do

We’ve all been to the supermarket recently and even though grocery retailers have done their best to try and influence how shoppers navigate their stores, it’s probably fair to say the vast majority of shoppers have ignored the directions on the shop floor.

Imagine having something like Google Maps but indoors? So you could direct customers down predefined routes avoiding other customers and pinch points.

Purple’s wayfinding solution can be programmed with destinations in-store and the routes that you want customers to take. The solution can be either web or app based and a simple deployment takes a week or less.

Guideline 9

Managing outside queues to ensure they do not cause a risk to individuals or other businesses, for example by introducing queuing systems, using barriers and having staff direct customers.

What retailers can do

Why not use technology to communicate with customers in the queue? Or before they’ve even set off, let them know whether it’s busy or quiet.

Encourage customers to log-on to the guest WiFi whilst they’re queuing. Not only are you offering a valuable service at a time when they’re most likely bored and maybe a tad frustrated, you’re also able to communicate with them in real-time whilst they’re queuing and then in-store.

Not only that, you’ll be able to capture their contact information, know which store they’re likely to visit in the future and then advise them on the best time to visit again.

Guideline 14

Shopping centres should take responsibility for regulating the number of customers in the centre and the queuing process in communal areas on behalf of their retail.

What shopping centres can do

Similar to what we suggest for guidelines 1 & 2. Our social density scoring can help shopping centre operators to maintain social distancing and support their retail tenants.

Using wayfinding they can also direct footfall traffic with predefined routes that avoid any pinch points.

Guideline 16

Working with neighbouring businesses and local authorities to consider how to spread the number of people arriving throughout the day for example by staggering opening hours; this will help reduce demand on public transport at key times and avoid overcrowding.

What retailers can do

Our software allows retailers to identify the busiest times and day in relation to footfall. This information can then be used to inform business decisions made in relation to opening times and staffing levels.

Our Social Responsibility Dashboard which can be used by businesses to ensure they’re doing everything they can to operate safely and successfully in the ‘new normal’.

All the information is displayed in a single, easy to understand dashboard that can be shared across your organization.

If you would like to book in some time to discuss some ideas and examples please click below.

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