COVID-19: A Blueprint for Retailers

COVID-19: A Blueprint for Retailers

Nepal has been on lock down for over 40 days now and it has been obvious that the lockdown and social distancing and fear of covid-19 will be in place for a long time and retailers need to revive and adjust to new normal. Social distancing will be the prime requirement for retail operation. In this paper Revive Management has aggregated recommendations for the retailers who are open or will be operating in future, aggregation is based on internet research and does not guarantee its authenticity or outcome. 

Retailers have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, with grocers, pharmacies, and other retailers working hard to make sure every family has what they need as people have stayed home. However, many retailers were required to shut down storefronts throughout the country, furloughing over thousands of workers in order to protect our communities and stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

With a focus on the health and wellness of both employees and customers, now is the time to prepare for the entire retail sector to safely re-open. Retailers have been learning from each other throughout this crisis, sharing leading practices and protocols to keep stores clean and sanitized, and keeping customers and employees as safe as possible. In Nepal most of the organized retailers and malls have been closed and unstructured corner stores/ Kirana pasals were open during the lockdown period. Retailers are ready to assist the government and city with the important task of safely re-opening main Streets and storefronts again, with an underlying commitment to helping all families Shop Safe. 

Retailers’ primary objective remains the health and safety of employees and customers, from distribution centers to stores. An approach that relies on the protocols employed by businesses which have remained open to the public during the crisis. This approach also allows health departments to evaluate conditions, and allows businesses to open to the public with the confidence that all retailers will adopt the social distancing, hygiene, and sanitization practices necessary to keep customers, employees, and the entire community safe. 

The key to this approach is adopting a blueprint that puts in place uniform rules of operations. The blueprint follows health department guidelines and a mutually agreed upon blueprint will accomplish three key objectives: (1) Protect our communities (2) Allow for the safe reopening of retail and (3) Establish clear expectations for employees and customers. 

Phase 1- Allow E-commerce, Contactless In-Home Delivery

  A fully functioning supply chain with all distribution centers operational is crucial for retailers to meet the needs of customers. In addition to directing goods to store shelves, distribution centers are vital to e-commerce and other contactless forms of shopping. Government should allow the consistent and complete re-opening of the nation’s distribution centers and warehouses, so long as retailers follow established social distancing, hygiene, and sanitization guidelines recommended by the health department. 

Retailers have established and implemented safety protocols to allow in-home deliveries. In these operations, a limited number of employees are allowed in stores that are closed to the public to fulfill online orders and deliver purchases to customers observing appropriate social distancing. 

Restaurants have been permitted to maintain limited operations by utilizing contactless pickup and delivery. These operations should be expanded to include retailers immediately across all green and orange zone areas , provided that retailers are following the established practices of social distancing, hygiene, and sanitization guidelines outlined below.

Phase 2- Re-open Stores to the Public, with Social Distancing Protocols & Reduced Occupancy 

Retailers encourage local governments to rely on the health departments, and other health experts to determine when to move to Phase 2. During this phase, retailers open additional stores to the public with robust health and safety protocols in place to protect customers and employees and to mitigate the spread of the virus so COVID-19 does not revert. 

As the government allows the re-opening of all retail stores to the public, local authorities should take the lead and create clarity for all retailers, law enforcement, and consumers with consistent social distancing, hygiene, and sanitation guidelines. Uniform, standards ensure the reopening of the economy is safe, efficient, and productive for customers, employees, and enforcement agencies alike. To further provide uniformity for retailers and consumers, local governments must lead and coordinate enforcement of public health and safety orders across each province. 

Local authority  should establish personal responsibility expectations for people  as they move about in public spaces, such as requiring face coverings where appropriate, washing hands frequently, and staying home when ill. Retailers are committed to posting signage and providing frequent reminders to customers about health and safety responsibilities; however, it must be the role of trained law enforcement professionals to enforce laws and orders. 

Recommended Protocols for Retail Employees and Customers (Phase 1 & 2) 

Social Distancing – Employees

  •   Ensure employees stay 3 feet apart whenever practical. 
  • Adjust seating in break rooms, cafeterias, and other common areas to reflect social distancing practices. 
  • Prohibit gatherings or meetings of employees of 10 or more during working hours, permit employees to take breaks and lunch outside, in their office or personal workspace, or in such other areas where proper social distancing is attainable. 
  • Restrict interaction between employees and outside visitors or truck drivers; implement touchless receiving practices if possible. 
  • Adjust training/onboarding practices to limit the number of people involved and allow for 3 foot spacing; use virtual/video/audio training when possible.
  •  Discourage employees from using colleagues’ phones, desks, workstations, radios, handhelds/wearables, or other work tools and equipment.
  •  Prohibit handshaking and other unnecessary person to person contact in the workplace. 

Special Protocols for Home Delivery/Installation Employees

  •  Wear protective face coverings and gloves during in-home delivery and/or installation services. 
  • Ensure proper social distancing between employee and customer.
  • Clean and disinfect any surfaces which will be regularly contacted throughout the duration of any installation.
  •  When delivery/installation is complete, clean and disinfect all surfaces which were contacted throughout installation.
  •  Clean and disinfect any tools or supplies used throughout delivery/installation upon leaving the home.

 Social Distancing – Customers (Phase 2)

  • Retail store occupancy limits will be established by local authority, and social distancing policy. To support smaller retail businesses, who may lack staff necessary to closely monitor customer flow, it is recommended reducing store occupancy to no more than 50%. Alternatively, thresholds of no more than 5 customers per 1,000 square feet of total store square footage excluding employees, may also be appropriate. 
  • Place conspicuous signage at entrances and throughout the store alerting staff and customers to the required occupancy limits, six feet of physical distance, and policy on face covering. 
  • Establish hours of operation, wherever possible identified by the  government. 
  • Demarcate six feet of spacing in check-out lines to demonstrate appropriate spacing for social distancing.
  •  Ensure six feet of distance between customers and cashiers and baggers, except at the moment of payment and/or exchange of goods. 
  • Arrange for contactless pay options, pickup, and/or delivery of goods wherever practical.

Hygiene 

  • Require infection control practices, such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage and disposal. 
  • Encourage employees to engage in repeated hand washing/sanitization throughout the workday. 
  • Provide sanitization materials, such as hand soap, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes to employees. 
  •  Require the use of gloves and regularly sanitize community technology and equipment such as POS, cash registers, copy machines, etc. 

Sanitization 

  • Require frequent sanitization of high-touch areas like restrooms, fitting rooms, doors, PIN pads, and common areas. 
  • Ensure operating hours allow downtime between shifts for thorough cleaning. 
  • Provide sanitization materials, such as sanitizing wipes, to employees to clean handhelds/wearables, scanners, radios, or other work tools and equipment before/after use. 
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch areas routinely, particularly in spaces that are accessible to staff, customers, and suppliers. 
  • Ensure cleaning procedures following a known or potential exposure in a facility comply with health department recommendations.
  • Have a deep cleaning response plan in place, in the event of an associate(s) testing positive. 
  • Follow proper procedure related to returned merchandise before returning items to the sales floor. 
  • Allow retailers to suspend or extend the time period for customers to return items. 

Protective Face Coverings

  • Require workers, contractors, and drivers to wear face coverings while on the premises. 
  • Strongly encourage customers to wear face coverings while on the premises. 
  • Post signage for customers to understand the importance of wearing face coverings.
  • Local authority urging and enforcing consumers to act responsibly and utilize face coverings—it should not be the responsibility of retailers to enforce. 

Health Screening

  •   Encourage employees to self-evaluate (before they arrive for shifts) for signs of illness (such as a fever over 100.4, cough, or shortness of breath). 
  • Require associates who exhibit signs of illness not to report to work and encourage them to seek medical attention prior to returning. 

Phase 3 – Establish Protection, Then Lift All Restrictions 

Retailers encourage governments to rely on the health departments, and other health experts to determine when to move to phase 3. During this final phase, retailers will have discretion to remove COVID-related operational protocols except for those related to enhanced sanitization and screening practices. 

The proposed retail health and safety protocols are designed to maintain sanitization while returning operations to the new normal, consistent with health expert guidance.

 Recommended Protocols for Retailers for Phase 3 

Sanitization 

  • Provide sanitization materials, such as hand soap, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes to staff. 
  •  Frequent sanitization of high-touch areas like restrooms, breakrooms, credit card machines, keypads, counters, and shopping carts.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch areas routinely, particularly in spaces that are accessible to staff, customers, and suppliers, and ensure cleaning procedures following a known or potential exposure in a facility are in compliance with health department recommendations. 

Employee Guidelines 

  • Require infection control practices, such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage and disposal.
  •  Encourage employees to frequently hand wash/sanitize throughout the workday. 
  • Separate employees who become sick during the day and send home.
  •  Encourage employees to not come to work if not feeling well. 

There is no doubt that even under the most optimistic of scenarios, Nepalese families will be adjusting to a “new normal” for some time to come. The entire retail sector is prepared to meet this challenge and give consumers confidence in the ability to safely and warmly welcome them back into stores. Retailers are ready to work together to safely re-open the economy.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us.

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