Posted on: 09 June 2020 (updated on 07 December)

COVID-19 measures in the UK

Across the UK, there are currently varying measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus. For the latest COVID-19 rules, regulations and measures, visit the government website of the country that you are based.

England: The latest guidance for businesses in England can be at the UK government website.

Northern Ireland: Northern Irish businesses can find the most up to date guidance at the Northern Irish Department of Health website.

Scotland: For the latest updates for Scottish businesses, visit the Scottish government’s website.

Wales: Business based in Wales can find the most up to date information by visiting the Welsh government website.

The following article may refer to government guidelines which were in place on the date it was published.

What you need to know about reopening your retail business

As we move into the second phase of the UK Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Plan, which started on 1st June 2020, non-essential retail businesses can now start to reopen.

During the initial lockdown phase, essential businesses were allowed to continue trading, namely the essential retail businesses who provided food and other essentials. Because of this, there is already some effective tried and tested guidelines for businesses in the retail sector.

How to make your retail business safe for customers

Social Distancing

You will have no doubt heard how important social distancing is in stopping the spread of COVID-19, as it is one of the most effective ways of stopping the virus in its tracks.

Social distancing dictates that people should stay 2 metres apart from each other at all times, as this will make it less likely that the virus, spread by droplets in the air from coughs and sneezes, will reach another person.

Here are some ways that you can encourage your customers to social distance whilst visiting your premises:

  • Only allow a certain amount of people into the shop at one time so that your customers can social distance.
  • If there are too many people in the shop, ask that customers wait outside and use markings to show how far away from each other they should be in the queue.
  • Use clear signage to show the direction that the customers should take around the store to avoid close proximity and congestions.
  • Encourage the use of automated checkout systems if possible.
  • Only allow card payments.
  • If possible, use see-through barriers to protect staff on your checkouts.

Coronavirus hygiene

Soap is effective at killing the virus, so basic cleaning routines are vital to protecting your customers.

If you have baskets or trolleys for your customers to use, place anti-bacterial hand gel nearby so that customers can clean their hands before and after taking their basket or trolley.

You should also encourage customers to not touch items that they don’t intent to buy, as any germs picked up by hands could be easily spread.

At the start and end of each day, give your counters, shelves and other frequently touched surfaces a thorough cleaning with anti-bacterial wipes or solution.

Inbound and Outbound goods

Safety is also paramount when having goods delivered to your store. Both the safety of the person delivering the goods and the member of staff taking the delivery should be taken into account.

Take some of the following steps to ensure the highest standards of safety when arranging deliveries for your store:

  1. Revise pick-up and collection points to keep deliveries away from an area where people could be shopping or waiting to enter the store.
  2. Minimise the need for contact for security, yard and warehouse workers.
  3. If your budget or produce will allow, make larger quantity deliveries that can be delivered less frequently, minimising the number of visits that someone will have to make to your business.
  4. If safe to do so, use only one member of staff to load to unload vehicles.
  5. Use the same people to accept deliveries or load them to minimise the number of people meeting each other.
  6. If a delivery driver needs to use any facility, such as the toilet or water taps, allow them to in line with the correct guidance.
  7. Encourage drivers to stay in their vehicle, again limiting the number of people that they come into contact with.

Returns policies

Accepting a refund for an item will be dependent on your returns policy, but also needs to comply with customer rights in accordance following UK law on accepting returns and giving refunds.

If you have been closed since the start of the lockdown, customers won’t have been able to return items, so consider extending how long customers can return items for.

At no point should you handle the returned goods. Ask customers to put their returned items in a box or spare basket or trolley, which you will take to a designated storage area, away from other merchandise. You should also wash your hands thoroughly after handling the item you are using to store returns.

If you have accepted a return, the item must not go back onto display straight away. Take returns to a storage area and mark them with the date that they were returned, keeping them separate from other returned items. As the virus is thought to last for up to 72 hours on surfaces, you should wait for at least this long before putting it back on sale.  

Face covering mandatory requirement

In July 2020, the UK government announced that they were making it a mandatory requirement for customers to wear a face covering, such as a face mask, whilst in a retail business. Non-compliance with this can lead to a £100 fine. Children and people with certain disabilities will be exempt from wearing a face covering.

Other safety measures

Outside of these measures that we have outlined, you could also do the following to help keep visitors to your premises safe:

Retail insurance with Premierline

Premierline is an insurance broker specialising in business insurance for UK businesses. Our insurance advisors will assess your business’ needs to find a retail insurance policy that is perfect for your business.

We understand that no two shops are the same which is why we work with some of the UK’s most well-known insurance companies to find the right shop insurance for your business.

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