Published On: April 21, 2020

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic seems to have caught the world by surprise. With its highly contagious characteristic, COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down: filling up hospitals, separating us from our family members, forcing us to maintain friendships virtually, as well as removing us from schools and workplaces, gyms and concerts. Our plans have been cancelled until further notice; our daily routines left to be recreated from scratch. The health crisis of such proportions has instilled much confusion, fear, and uncertainty. The new reality calls for stay-at-home orders and only going out to shop for essentials. In this war against the invisible enemy, essential stores are at the frontline, bravely helping people to get what they need. To help protect your employees and customers, and ensure they work and shop with peace of mind, we’ve compiled a list of measures that will improve your store’s safety during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It is very important that you train your staff on all of these preventive measures.

1. Increase Hygiene and Sanitation Procedures

Every rule you had about keeping your store clean has to be revised to combat the spread of the virus.  The Retail Council of Canada advises disinfecting high-touch surfaces and areas more often, such as washrooms, doorknobs, POS terminals, and areas used by your employees during their breaks. They also urge store owners to use disinfectants approved by Health Canada, which are identified by a drug identification number (DIN). If you are not sure whether you are using appropriate sanitizers or disinfectants, you can verify them by carrying out a simple search of registered cleaning products on the Government of Canada website and also contacting the manufacturer directly to determine their effectiveness and use.

There may be opportunities to make some changes in your store perhaps, and eliminate or alter high touchpoint areas like food sampling or self-serve and bulk bin stations. For example, olive bar products or bakery goods can be prepackaged instead. If you have a water fountain within your store, it’s better to put the out-of-order sign on it for now to avoid potential contamination. If any of your employees develop COVID-19 symptoms, he or she must stay at home and access the self-assessment tool provided by the government. The store area used by this employee needs to be immediately closed off and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, and if they test positive, the store itself must immediately be closed until thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

2. Reduce Store Traffic

Health officials have made this rule very clear; we need to keep two meters away from anyone who is not part of our household when going shopping or even just getting some fresh air. We associate retail and other business spaces with large crowds, and many people are feeling very anxious when it’s time for them to venture out to stores in order to restock their pantry or get some other essentials. To accommodate their fear and to improve your store’s safety during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, managing your store traffic is of high importance. Measures in place and what is expected from retailers may differ by province; therefore, we recommend that you stay up to date with any new COVID-19 store safety guidance and requirements for your province.

To make the 2-meter distance measures manageable, many retail stores have already implemented a limit of 1 person per 4 square metres, marked in premeasured spots. They are also tracking the number of shoppers at the point of entries and exits to make sure store occupancy remains light and crowd-free. Additionally, some stores remind shoppers upon entry about the rule of mandatory self-isolation in case they had been travelling. Anyone who indicates that they have returned from a trip within the past 14 days are turned away. These are all good practices to follow and to have them spelled out and displayed inside and outside of your store.

3 . Adjust Store Operating Hours

Because people have been told to minimize their trips to essential stores, they tend to buy a lot more when they do go out. For any store owner, that means a lot more work around ordering and restocking, and together with already ramped up sanitation protocols, it all requires a lot more from your staff. Consider reducing your store hours during which you will be open to the public, and reserve some of that leftover time to catch up with these activities, and to give your employees a bit of time to rest.

To give seniors and vulnerable members of the community more comfort and more space, you should consider dedicating a specific time of the day, or day of the week, when you will be open to only to serve them.

Don’t forget to announce all of your changes on your store windows and any online channels your business has, such as your website and Google business listing.

4. Educate, and Mandate Frequent Handwashing

Thorough handwashing is a good practice even in the best of times. Still, in a time of crisis like the current one, and with the absence of a vaccine or treatment, it seems to be a sole powerful measure that each individual can take to stay healthy and stop the spread of the virus. We have all heard about it a lot from many local and world health experts. How to wash our hands and for how long (minimum 20 seconds) has been explained to us through words, songs, videos and pictures. It’s a good idea to find some of these instructions online; there is an abundance of information under the topic of “effective handwashing.” You may find some illustrations suitable to print and place in the public and staff restrooms within your store, along with providing substantial amounts of soap.

To improve your store’s safety during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, you may mandate your staff to wash their hands every 15 minutes or so, depending on your type of business.

5. Add Protective Installations and Supplies

Modern-day interior designs – those utilized in our homes and those we typically see in retail settings – have moved towards open concepts. Until recently, there was no separation at the cashier, or the front counters, or any stand, booth, or desk that offered services; we were pretty much in each other’s faces. Getting socially closer, changed overnight into ordered social distancing. The new reality came with physical barriers between shoppers and those who serve them. It’s most definitely for good reason, and has been supported with a lot of creativity and solidarity by fellow Canadians. We want our frontline personnel and their customers to get all of the protection they can get. To support this, some businesses have shifted their regular operations and product lines to now developing and creating plexiglass shields for cash registers and front counters. If you don’t have these in your store yet, it is recommended that you look into it. If you just search the web for “plexiglass shields” or “sneeze guards,” depending on where you are in Canada, you should be able to find a local producer that is close to you.

Additionally, prepare disinfection stations at the entrances and exits of your store. Hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes, provided through contactless dispensers are excellent choices. If you can set up a few more of these stations throughout your store, that’s even better. Provide your staff with masks and gloves, and if possible, consider offering one-time-use gloves to your customers as well.

6. Encourage Contactless Payments

One significant step to improve your store’s safety during the COVID-19 outbreak is encouraging contactless payments whenever possible. This will prevent physical contact with a payment terminal as well as handling of potentially contaminated cash. Contactless payments also move lineups faster. Even major credit card companies have recognized the importance of contactless payments, by introducing specific temporary measures that will help cut the spread of the virus. Visa and Mastercard have just increased their tap limits from $100 to $250 to aid the situation, as has American Express. If you need reliable Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals that accept contactless payments, or would just like to learn more about this option, we can certainly assist you. Following the same safety guidelines as the rest of Canada, we have adjusted our work structure to be operational for your support.

7. Introduce Remote Shopping

Understandably, remote shopping is on the rise. If your retail store is still operating, you can offer additional ways for your patrons to call and place their orders in advance. You can then either deliver the items or have your customers pick them up. Either way, this is a great way to reduce traffic in your store. Even retail stores that had to close their doors because they were not classified as essential businesses can do the same. This way of doing business, with curbside pickup, as well as establishing an online shop, is still allowed.

To accept payments remotely, a virtual terminal that manages Mail Order Telephone Order (MOTO) payments is a great choice, which is very simple and secure to use. We offer that in our suite of products and would highly recommend this option; it’s not only suitable in times of crisis, but very useful at all times. Many stores have decided to add a shopping cart to their websites and sell their goods via e-commerce. “Bricks and clicks”, which is a combination of a physical and online store, is a trend we were monitoring long before this virus outbreak, and again, it is here to stay. Now is the time to consider expanding your revenue streams to an online shop, and we can certainly guide you along the way. Payments can be taken upon delivery too; with our long-range wireless products, your delivery staff can more safely accept contactless payments.  The Clover Flex POS in particular has proven to be a wonderful solution since it serves as an all-in-one-management tool, accepts contactless in-store payments, can serve your store on-the-go for deliveries, and allows you to accept remote payments for phone orders!

Finally, there are two wonderful new apps that are now available that can help you easily take your products online in no time. We’ll have more on both Koomi+ and Ecwid soon.

It’s a challenging time for everyone, no doubt about that. We hope that this list will be of help to you and your efforts to improve your store’s safety during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis. We know that you and your store staff are carrying a huge load right now and are very concerned about saving lives while providing some level of normalcy in your communities. We thank you for everything that you are doing, and we remain hopeful that this will end sooner rather than later. In the meantime, let us know if we can help your business operations in any way right now; just leave your contact information here, and one of our specialists will be in touch shortly.

Ozrenka (Olja) Blagojevic Marketing Communications Specialist