Supermarket and convenience store employees are dealing with the challenge of helping shoppers ‘social distance’ while doing their weekly shop. ‘Two-metre marshals’ are the new face of food shopping as the coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate everyday life.
This new breed of retail employee can be found at the entrances of supermarkets and inside stores, wearing high visibility jackets, and effectively policing the flow of shoppers into and around store, reminding shoppers to stay apart.
Marshals are just one new element of today’s Covid-19 food shopping experience, causing head offices to rely heavily on the flexibility of their workforce management systems and traffic data insights to adapt quickly to totally different patterns of shopper behaviour.
“Staff scheduling and labour optimisation programmes have had to be completely reconfigured in a matter of days to meet the Government guidelines on social distancing,” says Chris Field, Chairman of Retail Connections and CEO of Fieldworks Marketing.
“Supermarket groups have acted incredibly quickly to mobilise these new roles while also coping with staff shortages due to self isolation, and thousands of incoming employees hired to cope with the rush of shoppers. Learnings during this time of pandemic will set them up for any future events that take the market by surprise.”
Focus on wellbeing
“We’re seeing our grocery customers rise up in these unprecedented times and make enormous efforts to maintain a healthy workforce, ensure the safety of their stores and the wellbeing of their customers,” says Mark Benton, Customer Success Director, EMEA at Reflexis, a workforce management solutions specialist.
“Communications between frontline store colleagues and corporate teams has never been more vital and we are seeing just how important it is to have the right systems in place to make sure everyone stays up-to-date with key information.’
Supermarkets are also putting in protective screens and floor markers at checkouts and contactless payments in a concerted effort to meet the social distancing requirements set out by the Government.
Operational and HR challenges
As announced on 25th March, the public are allowed to buy essentials from supermarkets and pharmacies. And they can go outside to exercise once a day – being reminded to stay at least two metres away from other people.
Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Co-op, Aldi and Lidl have all backed the Government’s plea for social distancing with a set of strong measures to help its customers shop safely. All are mobilising staff to make sure customers shop while maintaining a safe distance from each other. The added complication of extra numbers of shelf stackers in the aisles – new teams recruited within the last few days – means keeping employees and customers apart is an additional operational and HR headache.
Waitrose limiting customer numbers in shops
Waitrose is limiting the number of customers allowed in at any one time. Shop managers will use their judgment on customer numbers and when the shop is at capacity to manage social distancing will operate a one in, one out policy.
The first hour opening is dedicated to elderly and vulnerable customers and those caring for them and NHS staff will continue to be given priority checkout service. All the food chains are making similar provisions.
At Waitrose, Iceland, Tesco, Aldi and Lidl floor signs have been introduced to ensure customers keep two metres apart when queueing at checkouts.
Screens and protective visors on order
Checkout screens have been ordered by Lidl, Aldi and Sainsbury’s to protect staff and customers from infected moisture droplets. Morrisons has acted fast, and put protective screens in place to protect staff in this way (pictured) .
Special protective visors are also being ordered by Waitrose and will be available to staff soon the company says.
There’ll also a drive to encourage more customers to shop in a cashless and contactless way to prevent unnecessary contact.
Lidl’s safeguards and additional support
Christian Härtnagel, CEO at Lidl GB, commented: “The safety of our colleagues and customers continues to be a key priority for us, which is why all of our stores here in Great Britain will be fitted with protection screens at checkouts.
“We hope that this additional safeguard will help to provide extra reassurance for those both working and shopping in our stores.”
Last week, the supermarket announced that it was creating up to 2,500 new store jobs to provide necessary additional support to its workforce and customers.
Co-op quick with floor markers
The Co-op has announced new measures to enforce social distancing in its stores in a bid to protect customers and staff from the spread of coronavirus.
The retail giant has introduced a range of measures across its 2,600 stores, including floor markers which will define a one-metre distance throughout the store and two-metre spacing for customer queues.
The Co-op is also aiming to limit the number of customers in stores at any one time as well as reducing the number of tills open, to allow greater distance between shoppers.
Photo credit: Morrisons