The safety of your customers and staff should be paramount, with the past 18 months taking things to whole new levels. Safety is provided in a variety of ways, and each must be monitored by retailers and their teams if everyone is to feel comfortable in store.
For Julian Taylor-Green, who runs a store in Lynford, Hampshire, and Spar Western Downs in Stafford, the first priority is making sure that they are on the right side of current laws, starting with the selection of the right suppliers of cleaning products and equipment.
“You need to make sure they are compliant with the regulations,” he says. “From there, it’s about briefing the staff on what they can and can’t do, what they can and can’t use, and explaining your reasons and methodology, from cleaning to preparing and cooking open food. It’s not just about the preparation of food – it’s how to do it, when to do it, and what you can and can’t do.”
Ensuring you are aware of protocols is important, but so is making sure your staff are clued up. Right from a new worker’s induction, Ian Handley, of Handley’s Go Local in Cuddington, Cheshire, takes his staff through everything from fire and theft training to public liability and trip hazards. “It is reviewed every six months.
We have a procedure file, and health and safety training, and we’ll assign a week where we go through them, and make sure that everyone is trained. If anything crops up on a day-to-day basis, we’ll go through things immediately there and then.”
On top of all of this, Covid-19 has drastically increased the steps that retailers will take to keep their customers and their staff safe, from hand-sanitising stations at the door to more regular wiping down of surfaces. “All our baskets and trolleys are sanitised all the time and the counters are washed two or three times a day,” says Anil Patel, from Costcutter Chislehurst.
Cleanliness is next to safety
If a store is clean and tidy, then it is easier to spot any potential safety issues. Alan Mannings, from Shop on the Green in Chartham, Kent, hoovers and washes his floors every day, which helps him and his team identify hazards.
“The floors have to be cleared of any muck,” he says. “Just get it cleared. Anyone can slip on anything and we don’t want to see those kinds of accidents in any store for any customers.”
Mannings is also vigilant about maintaining his shelves and stands. “Shop shelving can be a problem if you’re not looking at it on a daily basis.
“We need to watch out for those things because anyone can cut themselves on an old shelf. It could be a little child and that’s the last thing we want. As the stands get old and rotten, get rid of them or they’ll start collapsing. If something is becoming a hazard, get rid of it and make space.”
Sign off with staff and review
Staff training is important, but being able to codify your practices and have your staff sign off on them is also crucial for liability, says Ian Handley, of Handley’s Go Local in Cuddington, Cheshire.
“The training helps, but signing off on it helps cover your store in the event of anything happening – we can’t say we weren’t informed or didn’t know,” he adds.
Handley reviews procedures with his staff once every six months. Their safety is the most important thing, especially when it comes to crime. “I expect my staff to keep an eye on what’s going on, but I don’t expect them to apprehend people. As long as they can record the time of any suspicious activity, describe what happened and who was involved, then it’s fine.
“In a worst-case scenario – if someone brings a weapon – then I say just give them what they want and get them out of the store.”
Deal with situations straight away
Anil Patel recently refitted his Chislehurst Costcutter store so everything in there is new. “There’s nothing you can walk past and scratch yourself on. Anything that’s broken, we deal with it straight away. We have sanitisation stations at the door and our baskets are sanitised all the time.”
Patel mops the floors of his store every day, and he makes sure to inform his customers of potential dangers in his store, for example by putting up bright yellow A-boards to mark where the floor might be wet. He also take steps to make sure that his customers and staff feel safe when they’re in the store.
“You just have to be careful,” he says. “We have CCTV and fire alarm systems in place. And because the store is quite big, we have plenty of staff around the store as well to protect any customers if there are any problems, such as someone following them into the store.”
Keep up to date with safety advice
Despite his two stores being Stafford and Hampshire rather than Buckinghamshire or Surrey, Julian Taylor-Green still uses the advice that the ACS provided those county’s councils when it comes to judging the safety measures in his stores.
“That’s an additional link that we utilise as members,” he says. “Even if every council interprets its methodology differently, we can go back and use the ACS’ guide as our own authority.”
Having recently opened his store in Stafford, he has seen the structure of a property is also a serious safety consideration. “We’re having new ceiling tiles put in and new racking in Stafford. We have wooden shelves and we have to make sure they’re covered to make sure they’re not porous,” he says. “It all comes back to that advice from the ACS. We have additional fire doors and there are a thousand things to think about.”
Don’t let Covid-19 standards slip
While it might feel like lockdowns are easing, not everyone is thinking that way. Jeet Bansi received two calls from a woman who had wanted to check that it was safe for her to enter his Londis Meon Vale store in Warwickshire. After assurances, she arrived but still found it too busy for her to feel safe.
“We told her that next time we would close the store for a few minutes while she did her shop or we could get her shopping ready and she could come and collect it,” he says. “Your Covid-19 measures still need to be in place for people who are vulnerable because there are still lots of people who are looking for a safe place to shop.”
Bansi still restricts numbers at the door, runs a one-way system and has made his hand sanitiser station at the door permanent. “We have customers telling us it’s made them feel safe,” he says.
How to keep your store safe this summer
- 1 CHECK THE REGULATIONS: Councils and associations can provide guidance to which you can adhere, ensuring that your stores are up to standards that are safe and legal
- 2 KEEP TO CLEANING ROTAS: If a store is clean and tidy then it is likely to be safer and it will be easier to spot any other potential hazards
- 3 GET STAFF ON-BOARD: Training your staff about what to look out for and what to do when they see something is key. Making sure staff know to buy in on it will make your store a safer place all the time
- 4 COVID-19 ISN’T OVER: The pandemic has been going on for some time and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re not out of it yet. Keeping those safety standards up will make customers and staff feel safe
Read more of our store profiles where we visit independent convenience retailers to showcase their fresh ideas and unique insights