4 Factors Helping Retailers Thrive Post COVID-19

Contributed by Bob Butler, GM Americas for Safety Culture. 

Safety used to be a box-checking exercise. Now it’s essential for every business.

At a time when every industry is high-risk, customers and employees are demanding safer experiences as businesses continue to re-open.

Businesses that are coming out on top during reopening are the ones who are making safety their priority. These are the retailers who are able to adapt responsively to product, workforce, partner, and operational needs during and after COVID-19.

For retailers, the best way to manage risk among your workers and customers is by developing an early warning system. This system is what keeps businesses prepared for all the current and emergent risks. For retailers that are already in the midst of reopening, having this type of system in place will keep businesses prepared for what’s next as the world continues to change.

Using tools, such as digital checklists, to set up an early warning system is essential. It will help you track real-time data and give you the transparency required for staff and shoppers to trust the new retail environment by empowering your teams on the frontline.

Here are our top four tips for retailers to get safely back to business:

  1. Make safety the number one priority

Health and safety is now the #1 priority for everybody. Individuals and businesses are coming together to embrace the emerging concepts of social distancingand new personal hygiene requirements.Retailers who consistently maintain high standards of hygiene, cleanliness, and enable traceability will likely establish a sense of security and trust with their customers.

Retailers must ensure strict cleaning regimens are applied to all touch-points on the consumer shopping journey —reducing opportunities for contamination by removing touch screens, and implementing safety protocols for both employees and shoppers.

  1. Create an early warning system

Retailers can empower staff with simple, digitized checklistsand inspection processes that provide real-time insights. Checklists can further be utilized by helping to uncover issues — staff can then turn these issues into actionswhile creating an audit trail to keep track of everything.

Get rid of inefficient, infrequent, paper-based safety inspections. Increasing the frequency of checks is critical as retailers get back to business.

  1. Give your team safety responsibility

Retail is now a high-risk industry, just like mining or construction.

Every worker needs to take responsibility to create a genuine culture of safety, from the frontline to senior management, putting the safety of colleagues and customers first.

Compliance alone won’t cut it anymore.

  1. Make safety your edge

Customers and staff alike are looking for brands that are committed to safety and give them the confidence to get back to business. Communication is going to be critical.

Retailers must promote their new standards and work safety practices into their brand communications.

Use checklists to monitor compliance in new key areas, including correct PPE (gloves and face masks), social distancing and hygiene processes, customer interaction, and updates to pick-up or delivery processes.

If you are unsure where to start, trycreating reopening playbooks with wide-ranging strategies for your business. In these playbooks, lay out everything you want to cover for your customers and employees safety. These include plans for social distancing, limited occupancy, and extensive sanitizing procedures. The objective is to convey trust and credibility that their business is a safe environment for customers and employees. Identify previous processes vs. new protocols. For example, cleanliness was always key, but now it is paramount. Cleanliness procedures must be implemented more frequently and you may want proof that your business is in compliance in this area.

Take advantage of new solutions. Technology providers are presenting a myriad of coronavirus-inspired offerings to facilitate reopening, including digital checklists. Others are offering hand sanitizer dispensers, thermal imaging, and computer vision cameras for taking customers’ temperature (and their photo), floor decals, and signage for communicating social distancing and directional traffic patterns, along with numerous mandatory hygiene, cleaning and sanitizing procedures and cycles.

One element missing in most plans is accountability, which is critical to building trust and credibility with customers and employees. The ability to certify, audit, and trace incidents and prove that mandatory procedures were followed will help expedite the return to a new normal. Be flexible but cautious, the businesses that will survive this pandemic will be those who remain adaptable.

The basic principles of safety will not change, but the strategies and tactics deployed must. While there is always the risk of doing something wrong, there is a greater danger in doing nothing. Organizations that remain committed to the pursuit of safety excellence have been proactively examining the best case, worst case, and most likely scenarios as they reopen. You don’t have to choose between making a living, and keeping your workers and customers safe – you can do both. It just takes careful monitoring and quick reactions. Empower your team to proactively capture, assess, and address risks with the right tools so you can reopen strong, leading with exceptional safety standards as your competitive advantage.


Bob Butler is the General Manager of SafetyCulture. SafetyCulture’s platform iAuditor, is a mobile and web application that can be used to provide visibility and insights into raising safety and quality standards across an organization by collecting consistent data and help to standardize operations with this easy-to-use checklist software.

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