• Andrew Busby

Retail Needs Our Support But Is It Also Time For It To Take The Lead?

As we enter a second national lockdown, the debate rages once again about what constitutes a non-essential retailer. But in the face of often confusing and inconsistent guidelines, could the retail industry be doing more to ensure continual trading?

I first noticed it when I was looking around a large shopping centre recently. It was imperceptible at first as the centre still had a strict one-way system in force and also hand sanitiser liberally distributed.

But whereas back in May when all non-essential retail was allowed to reopen, and almost every store entrance was occupied by someone with a clicker and hand sanitiser, now there was almost a total absence of it. It was almost as if the pandemic had never happened. Emergency over, normality restored.

Since the first lockdown back in March, retail has been fed a somewhat confusing and constantly changing set of regulations and guidelines. So, is it any wonder that in the absence of any clear direction, Covid fatigue has set in throughout the industry? After all, retail premises are not being inspected for compliance. Compliance with what?

And in this, it seems that there has always been a strange anomaly; that hospitality should be required to adopt an enforced track and trace system before entry is granted, but retail is somehow exempt. Maybe the virus prefers The Bricklayers Arms or the Taj Mahal?

In the absence of any clear and enforceable guidance, has retail been guilty of becoming, shall we say, a little complacent? Could it have seized the initiative in order to make its premises, “the safest stores in the world”. Essentially getting out in front of the crisis response?

It's a tricky question to answer because the retail sector has suffered so much at the hands of ambiguous and inconsistent guidelines, but that doesn't make it above any kind of challenge. However, many are now convinced that lockdowns merely delay and defer, they do not address the root cause of the problem. They merely kick the can down the road. A different approach is required.

For many years we have grown accustomed to seeing hygiene ratings posted at pubs and restaurants, a sign that we could trust the premises for its standards of food hygiene and that by eating there we wouldn’t catch something nasty. So why not something similar for retail?

It would mean a certain level of commitment, because, let’s face it, a clicker, some hand sanitiser and a one-way system don’t necessarily add up to Covid safe premises.

But if taking some proper preventative measures allows for continual trading, and negates all the additional costs of going in and out of lockdown, surely it would very quickly make sense?

Retail is nothing but resilient and adaptable, and, more than at any other time, needs now to show leadership in the face of something of a vacuum. It needs to demonstrate that there is another way for business and society to continue to function. Because doing the lockdown equivalent of the hokey cokey is simply unsustainable.

However, the good news is that there are massed armies of solution providers ready and waiting to help retail take this lead. The SafePrem Directory is a carefully curated listing of the best of breed from across the industry, and is there and available now. Talk to us about how to make your store 'the safest on the high street'. We'll help you get trading again.

For more information please visit

Andrew Busby is a Co-Founder of SafePrem Solutions

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