What are retailers in the Chichester area doing to ensure everyone can continue to shop in a safe environment?
Food retailers have seen their turnover rise by 10.4% according to the Office of national Statistics this week. The ONS also reported a record high of 22.3% for online purchases as many people are choosing to order deliveries. This is due to those aged over 70 and many vulnerable citizens self isolating and avoiding contact with others completely, by staying at home and keeping well. This in turn takes the pressure off the NHS services who are dealing with hundreds of extra patients who have become ill with COVID-19 symptoms every day.
The larger organisations like Sainsburys, Waitrose and M&S are offering deliveries if availability allows. Oversubscribed ‘click and collect’ services are also possible and Asda and Tesco have hired a fresh fleet of drivers and added thousands of additional slots to the popular system which avoids consumers travelling to another premises.
Marks and Spencer have been trading for 135 years and are confident they can take the COVID-19 prevention measures in their stride. They run a food and homeware delivery service and M&S have also teamed up with Deliveroo to enable a limited selection of favourite dishes to be delivered straight to their patrons front door. John Lewis have shut all their department stores and redeployed Partners to Waitrose in a drastic restructure of operations, of the size not seen since their stores were bombed in World War II.
The most successful retailers have also designated specific opening times for the elderly and vulnerable who wish to shop in person. There are more sensitive folk that need to take extra care and who may also have accessibility requirements. The young and fit also all want to pick up their weekly supplies in a swift and pleasant way.
Sainsbury’s have launched a ‘scan as you shop’ mobile app which is available for Iphones and Android phones. The application means Sainsbury’s Nectar loyalty card members can use their own hand held devices to select items as they progress through the departments. They can then easily make contactless payments using their smart phones. The software can be downloaded for free from the apple store or google.
Marks and Spencer, Sainsburys and Waitrose all offer scan as you shop scanners which apart from picking up a communal terminal usually means a contactless experience. However this is not always the case and it can be frustrating if your trolley is routinely hand checked by an assistant at close quarters. Lidl is a smaller store and does not have this automated option.
The contactless card limit has been raised from £30 to £45 to help citizens around the UK buy without coming to close to any company employees.
Temporary purchasing restrictions are now commonplace across the sector as chains aim to prevent some products that are in high demand worldwide becoming unavailable. This means there are limits on the quantity of an item purchased per person, to keep it as fair as possible.
At Lidl this weekend shelf stacking colleagues were ensuring every department was full whilst they all worn tight fitting masks. Partners at Waitrose have all been offered face visors if they wish. Some Tescos payment till assistants also had face visors. Cashiers at Lidl were not wearing masks. Client facing employees at Marks and Spencer are not routinely donning face protectors but have been offered full pay to stay at home if they prefer for personal reasons.
Plastic protective screens have been installed at the checkouts at all the largest stores. These ‘sneeze guards’ protect key workers and the general public by keeping a clear physical barrier of separation.
Entry restrictions are in place at busy times everywhere. This controls the number of shoppers inside at any time to keep enough space for social distancing. Tescos have been arranging car queues so sometimes drivers can stay inside their vehicles to wait their turn. Lidl has a canopy area to give some cover if the line is relatively short but have struggled to marshal extra busy waiting times very efficiently.
Extra temporary team members have been hired during the ‘stockpiling’ rush at the end of March when Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet announced the self isolating guidance for the over 70’s which was followed by the general lockdown. At Tesco and Waitrose they have created new marshal roles to guide shoppers around the amended layout. At Lidl and most likely also the other major corporations too, these additional personnel where then quickly laid off when demand receded again over Easter.
All the big box markets have directional flow floor signs to stop customers accidentally approaching eachother from different ends of the aisles. The system makes it easier to keep 6 feet away or more from those also filling their baskets and trolleys in relatively close proximity. Lidl does not have this feature yet and when it comes to individuals freely gliding around the groceries, the wider pathways between the stacked shelves give better visibility and is a distinct advantage that the major players in the industry have.
Tescos have lead the way offering hand and basket etc sanitizer. Frequently staff have been cleaning the handrails on the heavy metal rollers between customers on their arrival. Marks and Spencer and Waitrose say they have expanded their cleaning regimes and clean contactless tills in between shoppers whenever they can.
Separate entrances and exits are available at Marks and Spencer, Lidl and Waitrose which steers clientele away from each other.
All the supermarkets have toilet facilities and baby change equipment that are open. Lidl’s bathrooms are brand new as the store only opened last month. Lidl is known for good quality products at very reasonable priced and citizens all over England have become very fond of many of the original European goodies that can be purchased. It is a basic no frills formula style of boutique that favours cheap prices over customer service and in-store extras. The team are friendly and helpful.
Our experience with picking up our list of essential food and household items recently is that there are many excellent measures that have been put in place with thought, care and goodwill. Technology has been used, serious finance budgets spent and many resources expended throughout the supply chain. Thousands of key workers have dedicated all their efforts on a daily basis in order to sell us our vital purchases in the best way possible and they have been performing amazingly well under very difficult conditions.
Despite all these efforts it is still very challenging to keep all shoppers 2 metres apart from one another as per the government guidelines. We have found that many residents are getting too close to one another accidentally, whilst attempting to push trolleys and manage children and care for other family members that it is not possible to leave at home.
Until a proven coronavirus vaccine is widely available nationwide we think the future of restocking your cupboards and refrigerator will be a fully online activity. Retailers will be tempting their regulars with offers and recipes and interesting new ingredients. The outlook is recycled crates, boxes and bags dropped directly at your property and this will be a part of everyone’s life going forward.
(1) ‘Retail sales, Great Britain: March 2020’ Rhian Murphy, Office for National Statistics 24 May 2020 ONS Retail Sales Report March 2020
(2) Lidl website 28 April 2020 Lidl Website
(3) ‘Tesco COVID-19 updates’ Tesco website 28 April 2020 Tesco: COVID-19 updates
(4) ‘COVID-19 Information for our customers’ Marks & Spencer website 28 April 2020 Marks & Spencer COVID-19 information
(5) ‘We’re here for you’ Waitrose and Partners website 28 April 2020 Waitrose Website
(6)‘Scan & Bag As You Go’ Sainsbury’s Smart Shop 28 April 2020 Sainsbury’s Smart Shop App