It’s the end of the world as we know it…

What a different world we live in compared to 6 months ago, 6 weeks ago and last week for that matter (when you consider the state of mental health). If someone told you a year ago that within 12 months, you wouldn’t be allowed to leave your home without a valid reason for fear of being significantly fined or, you would be forgiven for not believing them because it was, and still is, an unbelievable situation. We are in the middle of a once in 100-year event which will be remembered for generations and, will change the world as we know it forever.

The idea that post COVID-19 the world will return to ‘normal’ is nice however, it is not necessarily realistic. There are behaviours, both human interaction and consumer behaviours, as a society we have been forced to change virtually overnight and not all of these will immediately go back to ‘normal’ after the pandemic. E.g.

  • Just because the pandemic is over, will you be happy to walk in your local café and not find hand sanitiser on the bench? Or, will you be happy sitting next to someone on a communal table? Maybe, maybe not…
  • Will you happily walk into a ‘jam-packed’ retail store or, will you walk away if it is too busy…?
  • A huge proportion of the population who hadn’t previously shopped online, particularly for essentials have now been forced to use e-commerce platforms and, experience how easy and convenient these are…

The human side of the pandemic is nothing short of catastrophic and will carry with it absolutely no winners. The best you can hope for as a human being is to come out of the pandemic not losing anyone close to you and, financially neutral. This is not going to be reality for most people.

Business will be different to the human side as, there will be winners and losers in this arena. The opportunity is going to be in understanding how the world has changed and quickly adapting your business to suit the new market.

Due to highly volatile in store customer numbers, staffing will rarely be perfect as you are likely to end up with a mix of under and overstaffed weeks. You could use the over-staffed weeks to further develop systems for the following 3 in store practices which will be imperative post COVID 19:

Cleanliness – Consumers are likely to STILL be hygienically focused and as such, your ability to showcase your business as a clean is imperative. This is both about being clean and, the appearance of cleanliness. From a responsibility point of view, you want to keep everyone safe and no doubt will. From a perception point of view your customers need to ‘feel’ clean so – continue to have sanitiser available, make sure your shelves are dust free, your stock is clean and dust free, there are no cobwebs in corners and, your staff and their uniforms present clean and ironed.

Social Distancing – Even post all restrictions, it would be advisable to continue to practice some social distancing measures as a large number of your customers will be conscious of this. There will be limits to what you can do however if you can – have clearly marked areas for Script In / Script Out and Payments (preferably distanced from each other), continue to operate entry and exit sides of the access door, limit the number of customers at one time (if possible).

Cashless Transactions – To be honest, I believed in this long before COVID-19 as, cash has an infinite amount of touch points for risk of contamination and, despite the fees associated with cashless transactions, the cost of collecting, counting, bagging and depositing the cash is rarely calculated by business owners. Not to mention the risk of theft associated with cash. Cashless business are undoubtedly the future so, why not start now?

Things will go back to normal however, it will be a new normal and, if you are prepared, you can come through this stronger than you went into it. Plan for the new normal, prepare for it and (if you can) execute your revised in-store experience early. If you want to have a chat about any of the above in more detail please do not hesitate to reach out to your AP Group representative as we are always happy to have a chat about way to improve your business.

– Robert Whelan, Managing Director at AP Group

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