Second surge uncertainty and what it means for retailers
It would be fair to say that our predictions for how and when the pandemic might end weren’t nearly accurate.
Back in March, the general consensus reckoned we’d be saying farewell to COVID-19 by summer, making a swift to return to normality as soon as it was over. We know now that’s not the case. We’ve taken tentative steps back into the real world, with the constant threat of localised lockdowns, clusters and a second wave making the majority of us ever wary of the outdoors. The fight is far from over.
The future remains wholly uncertain. What does this climate of unpredictability mean for retailers?
“It depends how you managed in the last lockdown,” says CEO of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA) Vincent Jennings. “I don’t think there’ll be as much panic buying as the last time. I wouldn’t imagine that it would be as all-embracing as the last lockdown. Most certainly we’d be better prepared. We know what works and what doesn’t. Of course, we’d prefer not to have these practice runs to be honest with you.”
With so much uncertainty and public health hanging in the balance, RGDATA’s Tara Buckley says now is the time to redouble our efforts. We can’t predict the future, but we can control what we do in the here and now.
“For large supermarkets and town centre large convenience stores it’s about managing the business in the new environment. The challenges there have been rostering, trying to ensure staff are not overlapping so that you have staff who don’t meet staff who don’t meet other staff during the week. With an awful lot more movement and activity there are concerns about staff coming into contact with COVID-19 so our members have had to really up their precautionary activities so they can maintain the shop as a safe as environment as possible.
“Ensuring that the store is a safe environment for staff and customers is going to be an ongoing issue. A lot of our members have put in new practice new health and safety and cleaning regimes, so all of those will continue. There may have been hope that we would return to more normal practice by September and October but that’s not happening. We need to continue to play our part.
“For our members, We’re advising them to review their health and safety practices and to ensure that staff haven’t relaxed. Unfortunately, you have to keep impressing on people that COVID-19 hasn’t gone away and we need to redouble our efforts to ensure stores remain COVID-free.
How the next few months will pan out remains to be seen, but Vincent has faith in the retail sector. “I’m eternally optimistic,” he says. “We’re different than most other sectors. We’re still considered to be an essential service and we’ve certainly shown the ability to stand up to the mark.”