How can stores get social distancing right

From a distance there is harmony and it echoes through the land. It’s the voice of hope, it’s the voice of peace, it’s the voice of every man. I will never question the wisdom of Bette Midler again, as she may just be a prophet for our troubled times.

Social distancing is one of the key directives from the government in helping society to flatten the curve and slow the spread of Covid-19. Public Health England advises us to stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people. In certain situations, and in particular shopping within a small convenience store, this may prove easier said than done.

Yet again, the ACS have been at the forefront of providing information and advice to convenience retailers with regards to implementing social distancing measures in store. Their guidance can be found here.

It’s clear, though, that this is going to prove a huge challenge to small, independent retailers, especially at traditionally busy times of the day.

I’ve been visiting some of my local convenience stores during my ‘allotted outside time’ and over the last couple of days I’ve experienced a variety of solutions being implemented, as well as certain stores who clearly seemed to have missed the memo.

The multiples appear to be leading the way, from what I’ve witnessed. Most have separated queuing, restrictions on number of customers in the store at any one time, and clearly defined barriers to keep serving staff at a safe distance from customers.

But many convenience stores are now doing the same, with an increased concern for not just protecting customers, but also of course the staff.

Some stores, however, just can’t manage and have had to close rather than stay open and risk the health and well-being of their staff and customers. This just shows the challenges that smaller, independent stores are facing during these difficult times. Stores, which normally would be open come rain or shine, feast or famine, every day of the week for 365 days a year, are having to close up.

The example I have seen, must surely not be the only one and there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of these stores which are either closing or struggling to provide a solution which protects the health and well-being of all concerned.

I recently wrote about the important role that convenience stores are playing for their local communities, more than ever, at a point in time when shopping in supermarkets and online grocery deliveries are becoming more complicated for us all, and especially the elderly and vulnerable.

So, to see stores closing and struggling under these measures is going to be tough for a lot of communities to take.

The crucial thing is that we have to work together, as customers and as retailers. We need to ensure we are all doing everything we can to slow down the spread of this virus.

A couple of stores I’ve been to have no social distancing measures in place, but also customers didn’t seem to even be trying to keep apart. For example, I could see one store was busy from outside so waited for other customers to do their shopping and leave, yet whilst waiting other customers just kept going in ahead of me. I would have been there all day if I was trying to stay 2m apart from everyone else!

So, everything convenience stores are already doing is much appreciated, by most people.

As a nation, us Brits can be quite restrained, and telling someone to keep their distance can be a challenge. However, we can’t just place the onus 100% on retailers to have enforcement measures in stores for us to follow. As shoppers we need to take some responsibility and give our support to the challenges that our local retailers face. For if we don’t, they may not be there when we really need them.

Keep our local stores alive by keeping your distance.

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