By: Wayne Basham3 min read
Every crisis has a crunch point. For retailers seeking to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, that crunch point is Christmas, says Chris Macdonald, SafeGroup’s Strategic Sales Director.
For many retailers, online and on the high street, Christmas sales are where they earn their profit. Without Christmas, the business is not viable.
That is one reason why the Government focused such intense effort on allowing shops to be open in all COVID-19 tiers from December 2nd.It is also why we are being commission by retailers to provide COVID-19 disinfection both in stores and in warehouses and online sales packing and distribution facilities.
Desperate to stay open
That makes perfect sense. Retailers desperately want shops to stay open with no disruption to trading. Some are very likely to trade 24 hours a day in the run up to Christmas.
At the same time, customers and sales staff must be reassured that all is being done to protect them. Retailers respect that logistics staff deserve the same protection. Also, if a distribution centre closes, there is nothing to sell, and the same centres fulfill online sales.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, our customers have moved through a series of states. At the start, there was a great deal of uncertainty about how to respond to such an extreme threat.
As the crisis has evolved, a range of largely reactive measures have been put in place. More recently, there has been more interest in planned COVID-19 protection.
A good example is a UK manufacturer and retailer of high quality bags and accessories.
Prevent emergency COVID-19 closures
In November, with the Christmas sales period fast approaching, it realised it needed to reduce the risk of stores having to temporarily close for COVID-19-related deep cleaning.
As a result, we are carrying out regular disinfection spraying in all its stores across the UK, and in the company’s 50,000 sq ft warehouse in South East England.
All these sites now have the best COVID-19 protection on the market. Staff are reassured that protection is in place. As are customers, thanks to the prominent display in all stores of our certificate of disinfection.
If a store is now linked to a case of COVID-19, for example through the test and trace programme, the appropriate response is for it to be cleaned thoroughly by in-house cleaners, not closed for a deep clean.
For a retailer of luxury goods that wants customer to feel comfortable making high value purchases, this approach is particularly valuable. It wants customers to feel looked after. With lower volume sales, every ring of the till counts.
Other retailers are taking a different approach, while still incorporating COVID-19 disinfection as a core element of their business continuity planning.
Confidence in COVID-19 disinfection
For one retailer with a strong presence on the high street and online, we are providing a full planned COVID-19 protection service for its warehouses and online sales fulfillment centres and a reactive service for its stores.
These are decisions based on nuanced judgements, taking into account specific retailing styles as well as customer needs and expectations.
What is very important is that our customers can have confidence in the service we are providing. From the outset, we have been determined to maintain the high standards in delivering COVID-19 disinfection expected of one of the UK’s leading emergency soft FM specialists.
Our operatives are carefully selected and trained. They wear appropriate high quality PPE, including full body suits, gloves, goggles and masks. This protects them and reassures client teams that the disinfection we are carrying out is a serious process.
We use electrostatic spray equipment. It creates a super-fine ionized spray that clings effectively to all surfaces so provides much better coverage than conventional fogging.
Also, we use Zoono, one of the best COVID-19 disinfectants on the market. It has been laboratory tested and proved to provide long-lasting protection against COVID-19 and other pathogens, destroying them on contact.
Market-leading COVID-19 protection
When applied and used in conjunction with regular cleaning, Zoono provides >99.99% protection against COVID-19.
For example, we carry out planned Zoono COVID-19 disinfection of 53 depots and 6,062 London buses. That is three-quarters of the fleet. A TV documentary team recently extensive tested for COVID-19 on London buses. It found no trace of COVID-19 or any other pathogen.
This was a significant reputational boost for Transport for London. The TV documentary concluded the COVID-19 disinfection systems in place to protect the travelling public of London were working well.
We are using the same disinfection system for decontamination cleaning of portable buildings used as COVID-19 testing centre before they are returned to suppliers.
Our client, Prenetics Project Circle, is very pleased with our technology and approach, praising our ability to mobilise rapidly, the professionalism of our teams, and the quality of our disinfection service.
Changed attitude to hygiene
The start of COVID-19 vaccination adds a new dimension. While hugely welcomed, it is by no means an instant solution. Only time will tell if the protection promised will be delivered.
It is a huge logistical task, which will take most of 2021 at least to complete. In the meantime, measures to control COVID-19 transmission will have to remain in place.
For these reasons, we expect demand for COVID-19 preventative disinfection to grow in 2021, not subside. The protection it provides for staff, customers and business continuity, the wellbeing it spreads, and its relatively low application cost, will make it attractive to retailers.
The pandemic has also changed our attitudes to cleanliness. Staff and customers now have higher expectations. They will demand cleaner and better protected work and public spaces.
COVID-19, as a threat, will be with us for a long time. Other viruses and pandemics will follow on behind. The landscape for cleaning and hygiene has changed.
The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, wants to use the NHS’s new testing capability to tackle other infections previously considered endemic. That is very likely to raise hygiene expectations further still.
Retailers already realise they need to up their games to stay relevant and attractive when more people are switching to online shopping. In the post COVID-19 world, maintaining a truly hygienic retail space and experience could prove to be a vital necessity.