In addition to the many other rules and regulations introduced to help combat the spread of COVID-19, the UK government has now made it compulsory to wear face coverings in shops across England. With the rules coming into force from Friday 24 July, retail outlets and customers are now grappling over the regulations which have received a mixed response from the public.
What are the rules?
From 24 July 2020 onwards, it has been mandatory to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces. Premises that fall under this rule include shops, supermarkets, banks, and post offices – but even airports, bus stations and other transport hubs are included. Any customers who fail to wear a mask for the duration of their visit could be fined as much as £100, and shop workers will not be required to wear coverings themselves.
The rules mirror similar measures that have been in place in Scotland since 10 July, where anyone not wearing a mask in an enclosed space could be fined £60. In both nations, there are exemptions for people with a legitimate reason not to wear a mask – such as those with certain medical conditions.
Most people will understand the reasons behind these measures, but that hasn’t stopped a small number of individuals from flouting the rules. With the Association of Convenience Stores highlighting concerns that shop workers enforcing the rules could lead to “potential flashpoints of abuse”, it’s important for retail workers and business owners alike to know both the rules and how to gently encourage compliance with them.
Here are some top tips for making the retail experience easy for customers when they have to wear face masks.
Make the rules clear
For the most part, the public are happy to comply with any rules or regulations that are put in place for their own protection. The key is good communication, and making sure that customers know what is expected of them is the first step towards an easy and enjoyable shopping experience.
Lots of businesses have now introduced hand sanitizer stations at the front of their premises, and it could be an easy step to simply add clear signage that sets out the need to wear a face covering whilst on your site. With an unambiguous instruction to mask up on entry, the majority of customers are likely to comply with the new rules – leaving your staff free to get on with their jobs.
Provide customers with masks
If you want to make life really easy for your customers, you might consider giving away masks for free. This will make following the guidelines super simple for all consumers and needn’t cost that much – as cotton face masks can be purchased quite cheaply or even made if you’re crafty enough.
This is a sure-fire way of keeping customer flowing through your doors, as those who are particularly conscious of the risks posed by coronavirus will feel safe whilst others who don’t have a mask of their own to hand can still browse, shop and spend without worry.
Empower your employees
There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has been stressful for all of us – but returning retail employees have got it particularly tough. Some will have been furloughed or away from work for a significant period of time and will now be coming back to a whole swathe of new rules, regulations and procedures.
The thing is, whilst some customers will do what’s asked of them without a second thought, others will put up a little more resistance and in such cases it’s important for your employees to know that you’ve got their back. If you ask them to enforce a face mask policy, make sure that they are empowered to stand their ground if any customers take issue with the rules. Knowing that you support them will go some way to making employees feel secure and better enable to them to do their jobs.
Explore new ways of working
Retail was not made to be a socially distant enterprise and many businesses have found it difficult to adapt to the new normal. Face coverings can help to keep us safe when we must physically interact with others, but perhaps the most effective way to work during the coronavirus pandemic is to offer remote services such as product delivery or even an online shop.
Provided that you invest in a reliable suite of payment solutions, you could be doing business as normal but without the need for physical interaction on your premises. With a secure eCommerce Payment Gateway, you could set up an online store quickly and easily to allow customers to browse your full range of products without having to worry about wearing a face mask. If you must have customers in-store, make sure they can pay via card or a mobile device, with a contactless-enabled card payment machine – such as the fast and easy-to-use Ingenico devices provided by UTP group.
Even if you haven’t struggled with coronavirus regulations, a digital upgrade could be exactly what your business needs to revitalise trading and bring your retail experience up-to-date.
Making the best of it
COVID-19 and the UK lockdown brought about by the pandemic have been frustrating for all of us. Despite protestations from small corners of the public, however, most people are willing to embrace the regulations that are in place to keep us safe. With just a few small tweaks, your business could become COVID-secure whilst continuing to offer great service to customers.